Futuristic acceleration. Violent animosity. Rising hatred. Necessity of progress. Expectancy of profit. Interest in personal gain. Involuntary notions. Living matter as a renewable resource. These were strange times indeed.
Ill tidings and false wishes, impossible requests and infeasible demands – a union that swept across the entire globe like an unstoppable tidal wave, flooding and consuming everything it reached. In the end, few came out of the holes to see the dawn of a day. Those were the new people.
They shaped the world according to their own image, creating a large array of strings, checks and counter-checks, vast system of control points and statistic joints. They managed to establish a civilization of not men but links between them. It was not a plane of people but actions, performances and work.
The newborns noticed nothing. Their set of instructions made them see only the nearest connections. They believed they were individuals. They believed there were no strings. They believed the life they lived was a free one, but little did they realize they were pawns and peons. They didn't know their strong self-consciousness was a lie only they believed was true.
What kind of world was that? This is an enigma for the reader to solve.
"Life expectancy?" a man sitting in a cubicle within a large office structure asked whiletalking to someone on a phone. "None? Yes… of course. Of course I understand. Ithought I had the right to… not enough years? What? You can't be serious!" His last words were implying he was extremely upset yet completely hopeless.
He knew the Rules couldn't be broken. He knew they would have found and punished him. He knew for he had been present to so many penalizations. Some had been cruel, somenot that much and some had been most horrid. He especially remembered those whenthe unruly had been terminated.
A murder in cold blood wasn't something he wanted. He – a man known to his friends, or accurately called links, as Roy Stevens, but known as citizen number #3519-321 to the rest of the world.
His life was an ordinary life of ups and downs, a path of events predetermined to thelittlest detail. They knew he would be watching TV exactly at a quarter to six that evening. They knew he would stare at a cradle of an unborn child and sigh at the knowledge they had denied him the right to have an offspring. They knew he had a bad upper left incisor. Theyknew his DNA contained fatal flaws and further continuation of his gene line could mean serious imperfections. They knew so much it would make anyone scared to death.
A horrifying database, which watched over the lives of all, evaluated data and labelled them as unimportant and the individual as expendable. Even though the all seeing eye granted its operators unlimited wealth of cognisance, it couldn't predict one thing – that all those aforementioned events would never happen due to a miscount citizen.
Six hours after, Roy was sitting on an overcrowded train on his way home. He was thinking of living a different life where he was famous and renowned. He was dreaming so vividly that the awakening made him feel very bitter about his current state of life.
A small fat lady stomped on his foot, turned to face him and uttered: "Sorry."
"No problem," Roy said even though his foot hurt him to a point he wanted to scream like mad. She must have crushed his foot entirely.
Despite this seemingly infuriating incident, Roy remained calm on the outside. It was his inner self that was shouting in anger. His entire life was like that – appeasing to everyone around while cursing them silently from afar.
Nevertheless, time passed and he arrived at an end of the train's line. The station was overcrowded with people rushing for their goals, working and overworking. They didn't notice anyone but themselves in the enormous sea of people all around them. Locked in adeadly tunnel vision where the prey was a fulfilment of a job, they bumped into Roy more than twice while he was reflecting on what had happened during the day. Such an unlucky underdog he was.
A collision after another was waking a great dragon inside his head. It seemed to havebeen only a matter of time until he would burst into a shouting craze. Perhaps it would have happened just a moment after. However, every single time he tried to open his mouth, every single time he confronted his inner demons and convinced himself to stand for his rights, to prove that he was a strong individual, he also realized the anger was so weak. Fright got the better of him easily.
"Move out of the way, fool," somebody shouted at Roy.
"Of course, I am sorry," he said in a sign of submission and tried to step aside in order to clear the way for a hot-headed man. Unfortunately, Roy's movement was so clumsy hebumped into a woman who had been carrying herself along the platform like a model on acatwalk.
To Roy's disgrace and bad fortune, the woman fell to the ground, shouting like an angry witch.
"What the hell were you thinking? You idiot! You sorry excuse for a man! Can't you even check whether somebody is walking nearby? Or do you think that the world is yours? Youchauvinistic pig!"
"What happened here?" a passer-by asked and helped the woman to stand up.
"This idiot crashed into me and knocked me to the ground!" the woman yelled whilepointing at Roy.
Immediately, the passer-by, a tall, well-built man, frowned upon Roy, standing right before him, making him look so small Roy felt ashamed and frightened.
"You will apologize to the lady or else I will beat the living… soul out of you!" thepasser-by said angrily.
"O-o-of co… of course!" Roy stuttered and turned to the woman so as to make amends while she was gazing at him with a slightly amused look – a look gushing with glee that shehad the upper hand, that she was a conqueror and had just beaten a man. Little did she reason out her vanity and arrogance.
Roy tried to make a meaningful sentence yet only babbling came out of his mouth. Thepasser-by was apparently infuriated by the fact that Roy wasn't able to properly apologize, while the woman started to laugh with a perverse realization of her power and satisfaction in the matter.
If it hadn't been for a twisted quirk of fate, Roy would have been on his way home with afew bruises and lumps all over his body, grunting and mumbling about his bad luck. Sothiswasn't how things would evolve despite imminence.
A shot could be heard. Loud and clear, it struck the mind of every present man and woman, silencing and paralyzing them for a brief period of time only to make everyone run inpanic soon thereafter.
The woman and the passer-by, they had already been gone by the time Roy became aware of the impending danger. He could see a dead body lying on the ground not so far away fromhim. An unknown assailant was near yet Roy was unable to determine his exact location due to the chaos that had ensued on the station.
"Stay where you are or you will be shot!" an authoritative voice shouted. Roy noticed itbelonged to a policeman holding a gun and aiming it at an armed man. Was it just anordinary motion of a day? A common occurrence?
Roy would have carried on thinking if it hadn't been for a shot followed by another wave of screams and panic. This time, it was the policeman, whose face hit the ground, splattering blood all over the platform.
Roy stood as if he was frozen. He didn't make a move despite the rampant murderer was very close and he was the only one in the vicinity. Would the assailant turn his gun on Roy? Would he kill him as well to take down an eyewitness?
"Freeze!" a group of policemen shouted at the assailant, rushing out of nowhere.
"You give me no choice," the assailant said as Roy finally realized he should have been running away in rout.
It was too late. Just a few metres away, the assailant quickly leaped over to Roy and grabbed him by the neck, pulling Roy's body in front of his as a living shield. His gun pointing at Roy's head, the assailant was the one who had suddenly gained the upper hand.
"No, you freeze or else I will blow this poor guy's head off," the assailant said while retreating to a nearby carriage. "Lower your firearms!"
The policemen held their pistols firmly, their index fingers touching the trigger and ready to shoot, awaiting the final order of their sergeant.
But the order didn't come out as expected. "Do as the man said! We can't be blamed for another failure."
"Sir, with all due respect, we can't let that maniac escape!" one of the uniformed men protested while the others showed signs of complying with their master's orders.
"Do it now or you will have a mess to clean!" the assailant reinsured that he was the one in control of the situation. The entrance to the carriage was just a few metres away.
"Drop your weapons, men!" the policeman issued an order once again and this time it was met with no resistance.
Unarmed, all five uniformed men were at the mercy of Roy's kidnapper, awaiting whatfate had in store for them. It wasn't anything pleasant.
The assailant pointed the gun at the policemen, shooting them in the head one by one. When he finished, he aimed the weapon back at Roy. "I hope you have no stupid intentions that could get you killed," the assailant said while retreating to the carriage.
"No, I assure you I don't," Roy managed to say as he was trying to recover from a shock.
"Good," the assailant almost whispered and dragged Roy around the train whilst trying to reach the engine. "I hope you are worth to the government or else I'm screwed."
Roy once again recalled his talk with them and their refusal of Roy's family. Such arejection could have meant only one thing and Roy was fully aware of it. He was useless and expendable. He didn't dare to tell his kidnapper because it would have meant sure death. Instead, he remained silent and willingly moved to where his captor was pulling him.
Soon enough, they arrived at the engine, where a sleepy man was sitting at a control desk, blankly staring at the tracks in front of the train.
"Does this thing have a security switch?" the assailant almost shouted. Apparently, theclock was ticking and he couldn't afford to lose even a single second.
"Wha… who the hell are you?" the driver asked just as he stood up and faced theassailant.
"I am the one asking questions here," the assailant said angrily while pointing the gun at the driver. "Now answer me or you'll be sorry that your ugly fat bottom has ever seen the light of a day."
"No," the driver said with a frightened voice.
"Good, so this thing is ready for a ride?"
"Yea, of course. Do you want me to take you somewhere?"
"No, I can do that on my own," the assailant replied and shot the driver in the head.
Immediately afterwards, he pushed Roy away to a corner and said: "Don't even think of doing something stupid. I know how to handle the handgun I'm carrying so one foolish step can cost you your life."
Roy was so sheepish he was even afraid to say a word to confirm his compliance.
But his captor was relentless. "Do you understand?!"
"Yes," Roy answered mousily.
"Fine," the captor said while he tended to the train's controls.
A few moments had passed and the train began moving.
"Where are we heading?" Roy finally broke the silence.
"Doesn't matter. I've spent years on this and am just a step away from reaching the end."
Roy didn't understand the strange babbling of his captor, who didn't even bother turning and talking face to face with Roy. He was apparently preoccupied with thinking out his master plan, whatever it might have been.
"Who are you?" Roy continued enquiring.
"I'm…" the captor lifted his voice but was stopped midway by a hologram of a shadowy figure appearing in front of their eyes. It was a silhouette of an unknown person, yet it was so dark and terrifying.
"Citizen five, I presume. It took us this long to find out who this rebel is. It makes us all sad to realize that the one who helped to build this paradise has turned rogue. No sweat – your rebellion will be quelled and you will be terminated."
"Shut up! I'm taking the ship down. It should never have seen the light of a day. We should have died with the cataclysm. However, your act will be over soon enough, One."
"Spare us of your delusional beliefs, Five. It took us eons to track your movements, but now that we have done so, you have grown desperate, we can feel it. It is only a matter of time until you drop dead of exhaustion."
"This won't work on me, remember I'm not a puppet of yours but your equal, One."
"We are saying the truth. Just as we speak, the route of this train has been altered – switch blades have been misaligned. You are heading to your doom. And as if it wasn't enough, this train is full of armed forces. It won't surprise us if they charge straight into the room."
"Silence! I'm not going to get frightened, you are wasting your breath, One."
"As you wish, Five, we won't be informing you of our progress and thus you won't know when your final moment will come," said the silhouette and disappeared.
Roy was confused. He didn't understand what they were talking about but if the little he thought he had realized was true, then it was them. Those who orchestrated all. They denied him the right to have an offspring.
It was them who Roy should direct his anger at, for they were the first citizens – the government. However, he was so weak – he had no chance of breaking free and having his rightful revenge.
Mixed feelings battled within Roy's head, but he chose to remain silent instead. He didn't want to cause trouble and die.
His captor, citizen five, turned to him, took out a makeshift rope from his clothes and proceeded to tie Roy to a small pipe built into the wall.
"Don't move," said Five as he bound him to the pipe. When he finished, he headed through the door, leaving Roy absolutely alone at the mercy of anybody with hostile intentions.
"Where are you going?" Roy yelled, but his shout went unanswered. Nothing but a clattering sound of the train served as his company in the otherwise silent room.
"Is there a way we can cut off his route?" asked an elderly weathered man in a military uniform whilst smoking a cigar. There were many like him in the room. Soldiers and officers, all called upon to track down an enemy – citizen five. The room was full of electronic panels, maps, beeping computers and humming machines.
"We have already looked into that matter," a tall bald man dressed in a suit said. "The train will arrive at station six within an hour. There, an armed commando unit will be already waiting as you wished."
"Are the commando appropriately prepared for the situation at hand?" the weathered man asked.
"Yes. I personally handpicked them. They are the best."
"Sir, he had eliminated an entire police patrol sent to deal with him firsthand. He might not have problems with taking them down if he gains an advantage." A man sitting at a large array of computers said without turning his head.
"On second thought, wouldn't bombing the train be safer?" the weathered man asked. "The people onboard are expendable."
"I think the same, but Three personally said he wants to confront him. He himself is heading the commando unit."
"I hope he knows what he's doing," the weathered man sighed.
"General, change of plans! We've received a report that they have relocated and will intercept the train before it arrives at the station."
"Why do I feel like I'm not the one in charge here," the weathered man said unhappily to himself.
Five was heading through the train carriages and carefully looked around every one for a hidden enemy. He found none on his way though. It was apparent that his antagonists had been trying to fool him.
"Don't shoot!" someone cried as he noticed an armed man enter the carriage.
"Is anybody else in this or the next carriage?" Five asked.
"As far as I know, I'm the only one in here," the man who was hiding behind a seat said in a timid voice.
"Stand up so I can see you," Five ordered the frightened man.
"How can I be sure you won't shoot me when I do so?"
"And how can I be sure you aren't hiding a gun behind your back?" Five asked with his hand holding a pistol firmly, ready to shoot.
"Don't be so trigger-happy," the frightened man said.
"Will you stand up?!" Five shouted angrily.
"Okay, just don't shoot," the frightened man replied and came out of his hiding, putting his hands in the air and revealing he was unarmed.
"Good. Now would you mind telling me what you are doing here?"
"I was travelling home and overslept until somebody hijacked the train. Is it over? Are you with the undercover police?"
"I'm afraid not," Five said and started thinking.
A minute of silence ensued, leaving the unarmed man in a moment of embarrassment and indecisiveness as to what to do.
"Get off the train and be glad I didn't kill you. Go, before I change my mind."
"Sure, thank you!" the man said and didn't hesitate for even a moment. He headed to the nearest door and after he opened them, he jumped out of the train.
During his time alone, Roy didn't even bother trying to break free and escape despite it could have meant his salvation and a possible evasion of death. Instead, he obediently awaited his captor's return.
Roy didn't know how much time had passed, he just gazed out of the window in front of him. He could see very little as his view was obstructed by the driver's seat and his tied hands disallowed him from straightening up. He could only take note of clouds and occasional flagpoles along the road but that was it.
No wonder that when Five rushed through the door to the room where Roy was, he started cursing like mad.
At first, Roy was shocked by his behaviour, but when he figured out Five's attention was fixed to something outside that Roy couldn't see, his boiling thoughts eased off a little.
Little did Roy realize, however, that the situation Five perceived was indeed grave. An armed contingent could be seen standing far away from the train. The soldiers had apparently been waiting for a moment to strike. Five reasoned out his antagonists had successfully cornered him and now that he found himself with his back against the wall and little time to spare, he didn't know what to do. Around ten men equally spread and covered behind improvised barricades were prepared to take him down.
But before Five could do something and Roy could realize that something terrible was about to happen, it was already too late. A huge explosion sent a shockwave through the entire train, stopping it effectively.
While Five withstood the initial tremor firmly, Roy was sent to the ground and had it not been for him being tied, he would have found himself lying on the floor shortly thereafter.
"Damn it," Five grunted, crouched and swiftly moved towards Roy to untie him.
"What's happening?" Roy confusedly asked.
"We're under attack, you idiot!" Five uttered angrily and finally unbound Roy, though still leaving his hands tied together. "I'm going to need you so don't blow it. Come!"
Roy reluctantly followed Five as he held the rope and dragged Roy through the door to a following carriage.
"Where are we going?" Roy asked.
"We are going to the back of the train. I'm proficient with this pistol but I'm not a wizard to snipe with it. I have to check without getting shot so that's why we're going there. I'll scout the terrain and see if there are means of escaping alive. Otherwise you'll be my living shield again."
Even though Five wasn't all that friendly but rather a psychopath in fact, Roy felt that he wasn't entirely hostile as he had no problems with explaining what was going on.
And so they headed for the last carriage, encountering no one along the way. Finally, they reached the back and opened the door in front of them to reveal vast and completely empty plains where only the train tracks were a change in the otherwise monotonous terrain.
"That's not good," Five said to himself and closed the door.
"What's your plan?" Roy asked as he obediently walked along with his captor.
At first, it appeared as if Five was in a deep thought as to what to answer, but soon enough Roy realized that Five's friendly attitude might have been just his imagination. It seemed as though Five didn't intend to answer.
They traversed the train again and got to the front, where they could see the armed contingent readying something. They were moving like ants and while they might just have been preparing for an attack, Five didn't want to take any premature action.
If they had a sniper with them, they might have been able to take a clear shot at Five, which was a fact he realized soon enough to get into cover and drag his captive down as well.
"What is he doing?" said a nervous man in a uniform. Unlike others around him he didn't wear a balaclava, thus revealing his scarred face with a visage of a murderer. Whoever looked him in the eye felt a sudden fear taking over their mind, for he was waking fright and terror within the soul of every person that dared to look at him.
There were twelve of them. Professional soldiers enlisted to put an end to Five's enigmatic plan. Nobody had known what he had had in mind when he had gone rogue, but ever since several key people had gone missing and subsequently had been found dead, the ones in charge knew something had to be done.
Standing at the tracks with a train in front of them stopped by an explosive rigged directly on the track, they had been awaiting Five's daring move.
"Five appeared at the engine room just now. He is untying somebody. Shall we shoot, sir?" A man with a sniper rifle held his weapon firmly while prone, expecting to take his chances in any moment.
"No. You'd waste ammo. The glass of the train is reinforced by a special layer of… I don't know how the engineers call it, but it would make a bullet bounce off."
"He untied the person and disappeared within the carriage," the sniper continued.
"What?" the scarred man exclaimed.
"It appears he had taken him hostage," the sniper responded.
"Darn!" said the scarred man while he turned to another man who was holding a submachine gun. "Call the command. Ask them whether there are any reports on Five's actions at the station. We must find out who that hostage is. Five isn't stupid. He wouldn't have kidnapped some useless rat. I just hope it isn't somebody from the First Ten."
"Understood," said the submachine gun wielding man and headed to a small make-do radio station that the team had set up not long ago.
Meanwhile, the scarred man continued observing the train nervously. He knew this had gone too far and he was the one to stop Five.
A few minutes after, the radioing soldier finished his conversation with the command and immediately reported to his superior who happened to be the scarred man. "Sir, they say taking necessary precautions is advisable. They are trying to find out who the hostage is and it will take some time. They have assured me that nobody from the First Ten was kidnapped, though. However, they didn't rule out that it still might be somebody important."
Darn, if I screw this up, it will certainly mean the end, thought the scarred man, who was citizen three. He correctly realized that his little scheme he had come up with might turn against him. Just to have a firm grip on the situation, Three said to himself, trying to convince himself that it must not spiral out of control or else the others would finally get a reason strong enough to dispose of him without causing any upheaval. Indeed, there was a plot, a secret conflict within the first ten citizens – the ones that were in power of the civilization.
It didn't take long for Three to summarize his position clearly and issue orders: "Units from one to three, form a strike team and head for the train from the left. Four, you stay and continue having the vantage point. Five to eight, you clear the place here so we can move forward as well. The rest of you stay with four and be prepared to give us cover."
Everyone started doing as he said and amidst the moving, the sniper began reporting: "Sir, Five has entered the engine room along with the hostage. Now he has hidden behind the controls."
"Clever man…" Three said and maybe for the first time showed a sign of a smile on his face, apparently entertained by something. "…but perhaps too clever. He thinks that a sniper can take a clear shot. Still, he doesn't realize his advantage. Well, good for us. He effectively trapped himself."
While the conflict was taking place, One was carefully observing the situation from afar, standing behind a one-way mirror and watching his generals strategize within the safe confines of a military base.
Whilst they focused on the matter at hand, he concentrated on the situation as a whole. He was aware that it had gone out of control. Five was a rogue and had to be put down before he would create an irreversible chaos within the populace. One knew exactly where Five was trying to get and had done all to prevent him from reaching that place – the Great Database. A secret underground complex known only by the chosen few. Yet only the First Ten understood its complete purpose because it was them who had designed it.
It was the ultimate centre of knowledge and although it contained virtually all information known to a man, it had mostly been used to bend the civilization to the will of the First Ten until their union fractured.
At the time being, they found themselves plotting against one another, so despite Five was a thorn in the eye, he served as a temporary relief for the remaining First Ten because they had to set aside their widening differences and work together once again. Only One and Three, however, realized that this conflict could be used to swat two flies at the same time – to destroy Five and usurp power by removing the other.
Although the first citizens were considered mothers and fathers of the civilization and looked up to as gods, they knew they were just human. They weren't flawless. They actually had made a lot of mistakes.
While bearing a seemingly unlimited power over the planet, it hadn't been enough for either citizen one or three – or any other of the first ten citizens to prevent the defected citizen five from going rampant.
Despite that the ordinary never saw further than their doorstep thus not being able to conspire effectively let alone become aware of an injustice, the society was at the brink of a large-scale struggle.
One was fully aware of it, which served as an advantage over Three, who was focused on wiping out One as quickly as possible to avoid any unpleasant occurrences. Three, on the other hand, found himself in a dead-end situation as his hunt for Five pitted him into a high stakes match where he could as well lose everything.
At that time, One had to act as if he was supportive of Three's endeavours so as to keep the rivalries unnoticed, but he did his best to stall the information flow to Three. He already knew that Five's hostage was an expendable man and had made sure nobody would have found out anytime soon.
In fact, he had even gone to lengths that great he had tampered with the data in the Great Database and temporarily changed citizen's#3519-321 datasheet so that it kept him as an important person.
One thought his scheme was clever. That way he kept his rival unsure of the hostage's identity and thus making him tread lightly, yet still leaving him with doubt and a possibility to make him act a little bit rougher than he would if he got the false information concerning hostage's importance.
Even though One was happy with his ongoing scheme, there was something that was stirring unrest inside his head. Something that was eluding him. Something that might have been just an unimportant subtlety but also Three's ace hidden up his sleeve.
Meanwhile, the fight was going on and its winner was undecided, though it was only a matter of time until somebody would finally emerge victorious. Three's forces were dangerously closing in to the train and Five thinking of a plan how to break free at the same time.
"Give up, Five, we have you encircled and trapped!" shouted Three over a megaphone.
"Over my dead body," uttered Five mainly to himself, although Roy thought it was another sign of friendship towards him. Roy was indeed becoming a victim of Stockholm syndrome.
"What are we going to do?" Roy asked.
"I've been thinking," Five replied while sticking an unknown object underneath the controls, "we will have to separate. The man who has just threatened us is a hot-headed person, he will make his men rush into their doom when he thinks he has the upper hand."
"So what do we do?"
"Fair and simple – you will rush through the door. I believe you can open them even though you're tied. Don't leave the train and hide somewhere. Remember, don't do anything stupid. They think you're my accomplice and won't hesitate to shoot you on sight." Five lied to put Roy under more pressure and make him do his bidding.
"Are you serious about it?" Roy asked. He certainly had his objections but knew he had to comply if he was to survive.
"Perfectly serious. Now get a move on!"
It worked like a charm. Roy didn't even bother thinking about the whole scheme and rushed through the door. Directly afterwards, Five leaped through the empty space and made it just in time before the door could stop him and make the outside observers notice something off. Roy then ran towards the end of the train while Five remained in the first carriage, positioning himself just next to the door.
Meanwhile, Three's forces were closing in and the sniper reported what he saw: "The hostage has broken free!"
"Strike team, now he is vulnerable, charge right in!" Three ordered, not realizing it was a ruse.
Five was waiting with his left hand holding a small device. One sound could make a difference.
It happened. A sound of doors opening alerted Five.
"Sir, no sign of Five – it must be a…" poor man didn't have a chance to finish his sentence. Five had pressed a button on the device and an explosion followed, revealing that the unknown object Five had placed beneath the controls had been an explosive.
Still using the gained momentum to his advantage, Five opened the door and looked for any surviving enemies. All three were lying on the floor of the destroyed room, torn to shreds by the high explosive.
Five crouched and stopped behind the damaged controls for cover and aimed his gun at the door leading out of the train, waiting for a possible second wave.
"What has happened?" Three shouted consternated, noticing the explosion and fearing the worst might have happened.
The sniper soon confirmed his fears: "Sir, there was a detonation. It appears it killed the entire forward team. Five appeared in the room soon afterwards. It was a trick."
"I hate him!" Three couldn't help his urge to shout.
"Sir, we are in place," said a member of the commando. "New orders?"
It seemed that the only man moved by the unfortunate event was Three, as nobody from the commando showed even a slightest hint of flinching.
Nevertheless, Three remained silent.
"Sir?" enquired one of his soldiers.
But Three didn't say a word. He must have been struggling with anger and as a consequence it made him unable to think clearly. Devise a strategy, he said to himself, he might have fooled you, but don't let him think he struck a decisive blow.
"Sir, what are your orders?" another soldier asked.
"He is separated and trapped inside the room for sure this time. No tricks now. He must have jumped through the door when his hostage opened them. Now the hostage is somewhere inside. Five and six, locate the hostage. Seven and eight, stay with us. Four knows his job. The rest of you, position yourself near the engine and be prepared to shoot. We are getting that troublemaker for good."
"Understood," Three's men said and did as instructed.
Three was content that things were shaping out as he wanted yet didn't let his satisfaction overcome his anger over what had happened. He constantly reminded himself that Five might still have a few tricks up his sleeve and this daring operation could end in a disaster due to unforeseen events.
Meanwhile, Five realized that his situation had become dire. Unable to check where Roy was and unsure whether a sniper had him pinned or not, he had become a sitting duck. He couldn't even check what was happening outside out of fear of being shot in the head.
His only chance, as he soon figured out, lied in risking. He had to regain his hostage to fully take control over the situation.
He took a deep breath and counted to three. After that, he ran towards the door while crouching. He opened them and braced for a shot in his hand but thankfully none came.
He squeezed through the door and sighed in relief as they closed behind him. Now for the hostage, Five said to himself.
He ran as fast as he could to find Roy, meanwhile the sniper reported to his boss via a transmitter wired into his helmet: "The door has opened and closed again. I can't say whether the suspect has passed through or not. Be on your guard."
"Taking it into account, thanks for the update," replied Three without stopping. "Proceed as planned."
"We have entered the last carriage," a soldier radioed to the entire group. "No trace of the hostage so far."
"Be careful, you might run into Five," Three reminded them of a possible danger.
"Understood," his men replied.
Two soldiers found their way into the next carriage and continued walking almost soundlessly towards the following one, checking out every corner for a threat. So far, they had found none.
In the next carriage, however, they found themselves in a dire situation. Five had already got hold of the hostage again, with his gun pointing on Roy's head.
"You two, drop your weapons," Five tried his old tactics.
Both soldiers remained firm and whilst aiming at Five, they didn't make a move.
"I have nothing to lose. Do a stupid thing and this guy is dead. And guess who will be blamed for a death of a VIP." Five reinforced his position and expected they'd listen.
"Do I have to wait or what?" Five said in an authoritative voice while shaking Roy aggressively.
"Five and six, report in," radioed Three, who had already been in position along with others and anxiously awaited anything new.
"Hostage situation here. Suspect is threatening to kill the captive."
"Damn it," Three uttered silently to himself, then going on to talk to the commando. "Don't blow it and try to hold your position. We will try to catch him unsuspecting from behind."
"Aye," unit five responded.
"Aye? Talking to the boss, aren't you? Well, I have to inform you that my patience is nearly over!" Five was aware of the fact that the odds weren't tipped exactly in his favour and desperately tried to convince the two soldiers to put their firearms down.
Five slowly walked backwards, aiming to go through the door. Every second passed meant the soldiers growing bolder as they started to realize that Five indeed had something to lose.
"I'm sorry," Five whispered to Roy shot him in his right arm.
While Roy screamed in pain and the soldiers prepared to shoot, expecting the situation to unravel, Five aimed his pistol back at Roy's head.
"Drop your weapons or his brain will splatter all around the place," Five said maniacally whilst still retreating.
Much to his relief, soldiers got convinced and slowly downed their guns. Five didn't hesitate for even a single second – both soldiers were swiftly shot in their heads and fell dead to the ground afterwards.
Five's magazine was dry so he dragged Roy to where soldiers were and swapped guns with one of the deceased. Five now held a submachine gun in his hand.
"Don't bleed out," Five said when he noticed Roy's shirt was dripping wet with blood. "I need you to survive long enough to get where I need."
Roy was drifting in and out of conscience because of the shock that Five's shot had induced. He didn't pay attention to what was happening nor what Five was saying. He just let Five carry him around.
"Unit five and six, report in," Three tried to get informed but received no response. He feared for the worst which indeed had happened.
He and his men were waiting near the entrance to the engine room. Three was facing a dilemma. Should he charge right in and risk being killed inside or wait and get shot if Five storms out of a carriage?
He chose in favour of the former and signalled his people to enter the engine room while ordering two of them to stay and guard the area.
Along with a few men, Three walked through every carriage expecting to run into Five sooner or later, which eventually happened in the fourth one. Standing face to face with guns ready, they all froze and awaited that the other would make the first move.
"Finally we meet again under these circumstances. In a face-off. You're going down, Five, you know it!" Three tried to appal Five.
"Make sure you won't do a mistake that could make the others remove you forcibly!" Five didn't wait to play tricks either. "You know how tense the situation is! One false step and all could go to hell!"
"I'm aware of that and have taken necessary precautions so that this can not happen. Will you surrender now or do we have to kill you?"
"Don't think you can fool me. If you had really wanted to kill me, you would have done so by blowing the train to pieces. But you didn't! You were rightfully aware of consequences that would follow if this man that is my hostage died."
"Really," Three said sneeringly although it didn't take much for Five to see that Three was extremely irritated. "You are utterly mistaken. I wanted to see you face to face. Kill you in person, so that the lackeys from the First Ten finally recognize me as the one in decisive charge. You can't possibly imagine that your rebellion came just in time. Nothing sets aside such a hidden struggle like an open conflict. Shame for you that you didn't realize you weren't the only one discontent with ongoing affairs, but you know how it goes, other's loss is my gain."
Five was standing next to a door leading out of the train. He was fully aware of them and was slowly crawling towards them, preparing to escape when necessary.
"You don't understand my goals," Five explained. "I'm not aiming to usurp power like you want to. I'm aiming to destroy this greed that has overtaken us. That's why I did what I did."
"Shame this is the end of the line," Three said gleefully and reasoned out he could push with his manipulation even further. "Just a moment ago, I've received permission for unnecessary losses. The hostage you are holding – he is of no interest to us."
Damn! Five thought and rushed through the door shooting at his enemies. They answered with fire even though it wasn't Three's intention. The situation went out of control.
Luckily for him, Roy didn't get hurt. Five and Roy jumped out of the train, revealing themselves to the sniper who immediately reported on the situation: "Sir, I have a clear shot!"
Three was about to reprimand his soldiers, but instead signalled them to stay and replied to the sniper: "Kill him!"
Five turned to face the barricades created by Three's men and came to realize that there could have been a sniper. His horrification arrived too late, however, for the sharpshooter had already pulled the trigger.
His aim was precise, yet nobody came down. Five instead pulled back to get as near the train as possible and started running for another carriage.
"Miss," said the sniper. "Taking another shot."
Three didn't wish to get into crossfire and waited for the few seconds that had passed, while the sniper fired again. Five apparently didn't want to go down. Was he blessed?
"Miss!" sniper said almost exasperated, but quickly reloaded for another try.
As another shot came and didn't hit the target, everyone in Three's team began to realize something was wrong.
"Sir, something isn't right," the sniper explained. "I swear my aim was precise, but the target still lives!"
"Darn!" Three cursed. "Everyone check your ammunition now!"
As expected, all the soldiers confirmed that they had blanked cartridges.
"Sir, we're rigged!" someone reported.
"I noticed," Three uttered angrily and realized immediately who had done so. One.
Angered but still reasonable, Three knew the only possible thing to do was to withdraw and allow Five to escape. He didn't know Five was armed with a harmless gun as well, so he grabbed his small megaphone device and shouted: "Five, you won… this time. Get out of my sight. Run away. I won't chase you… at least not immediately."
Three knew that even though he had to hunt Five down, he had to devote his attention to One too, because it was him who had orchestrated this mission's failure. Three simply couldn't allow any further hindrances to happen.
Three got out of the carriage, watching Five head for one of the last carriages.
"How do I know you won't kill me?" Five shouted as he was getting farther.
"Look, this gun can't kill you," Three exclaimed and aimed at Five, who hadn't been aware that somebody was behind him until he heard a gunshot.
When he turned around dragging Roy vigorously, he saw Three shooting, but felt that not a single bullet hit him. Could it have been a trick?
Five aimed at Three to finish him off, but before he could it dawned upon him that if he had a weapon from the deceased soldier, then it was most likely harmless as well. Apparently, Three didn't know that so Five put his gun down shortly thereafter.
"How do I get out of here?"
"There is a station nearby. Just follow the tracks." Three didn't say it happily as he didn't want to help his enemy, but he was glad he didn't get shot in the head.
"Clear out of the train so I can see you," Five ordered and Three made sure it happened. Five then hastily made off and Three could only watch him disappear on the horizon. Such a disgraceful position it was for him. He didn't submit to hopelessness though, for he had lost the battle but not the war.
"Three announced retreat!" a uniformed man reported to One, who was sitting in his cosy armchair, enjoying a time off in his office.
"Shame," One said in an enigmatic voice. Even though many had confronted him within his room, nobody had ever clearly reported how he had looked like. Always hidden within the shadowy confines of his room, he never allowed anyone to see him.
"What are your orders?" the uniformed man asked.
"None for now. Go have some rest. I believe the entire staff earned it after this long and tiring operation."
"Of course… I mean… thank you," the uniformed man said and disappeared behind a door that could barely be seen in the dimly lighted room.
With three having to act prideful, unable to admit another citizen had outsmarted him and vowing to have his revenge, One's plans were going exactly as he wished and it seemed nothing would hinder his agenda.
Five was on his way to the Great Database with Three on his tail, who wanted to watch his progress and appear just as One would deliver a fatal blow to Five. But One was prepared for it and believed that nothing could stop him despite that strange feeling he had had earlier – that Three might have a trick hidden up his sleeve.
Five and Roy managed to get to the station, which happened to be a part of a small village with nearly nobody around. When they hid within the restrooms, Five briefly checked Roy's wound – it wasn't anything special, only a flesh wound.
"Come on, let's go," Five prompted his hostage and dragged him along because Roy didn't exhibit any signs of consciousness.
Five carried Roy out of the restrooms and dragged him out of the station, meeting with few people, who were either asleep or too apathetic to care anyway.
He eventually made his way to a street where the station was located and immediately fixed his gaze on a man enjoying a cigarette while sitting on the driver's seat with his door opened.
Little did the driver realize that it might have been the worst mistake he had made in his life until he saw a gun pointing at him.
"Get out, now!" Five yelled.
Apparently enough, the sight of an angry man with a submachine gun wasn't something the driver would expect at noon's time.
Five noticed that the driver was paralyzed and gazed at the end of the gun. Five soon found out he had to remove the reluctant man out of his seat forcibly. He dropped Roy, who fell to the ground, and proceeded to grab the driver's arm to throw him out of the car.
When the driver found himself on the ground, the only thing he could think of to save his life was to run away screaming like crazy. Five didn't care, however, as he was busy with placing Roy on the backseat.
Soon enough, Roy was in place and Five sitting on the driver's seat, hoping the car had a sufficient level of fuel and was capable of giving them a ride.
"Are you awake?" Five tried to check his captive's consciousness.
Unfortunately, there was no reply, but Five didn't expect much so he was content with what he didn't get and as soon as the car engine started, he drove out of the village to head for the last stop before finally reaching the Great Database.
Had Roy been awake, he would have been wondering, if not even asking, what it was all about. Who were the actors in this game and what were their goals? It all seemed too blurry…
What both One and Three didn't know was that Five wasn't planning to go to the Great Database directly, but instead headed for the nearest archive which was located in a large city.
His thoughts were clear – archives weren't exactly buildings containing tons of papers, they were actually facilities with state-of-the-art technology used as a secondary storage should the Great Database malfunction, an event that had never happened.
Nevertheless, these archives also contained several transports used to get resources around. Transports where Five could stow away and get to the Great Database without running into any hostiles. Apart from that, Five expected that the archive could serve him by divulging information about the Great Database's defences.
"What's going on?" Roy asked while his vision was blurry.
"Finally, you're awake," Five said, realizing that he had yet to test whether his weapon was really useless or not. Whilst driving, he aimed at Roy's leg and fired.
The sound of a weapon shooting scared Roy to an extent he was no longer sleepy but fully awake and screaming with fear instead.
"Calm down, its harmless," Five grumpily said as his fear had been confirmed, though his weapon in particular had a dummy cartridge, thus not even having gunpowder.
"Really?" Roy enquired.
"Indeed," Five said.
"Hey, now that, you know… we have spent some hours on the road, I was wondering…" Roy tried to get some information as to what was going on. He was clumsy though, but it was rather remarkable that he didn't start to whine about his arm injury.
"Wondering about what?" Five seemed to be in a friendly mood.
"About what's going on," Roy finally spitted out.
Five paid attention to the road so he didn't burden with seeing Roy in the eye while telling him his answer: "Don't preoccupy yourself with something that would make you disillusioned. Very disillusioned. Perhaps to a point you'd seriously consider committing suicide."
Even though Roy wasn't quite satisfied with Five's reply, he decided to remain silent so as not to sink into unnecessary trouble.
"We're near," Five said and in a few second he pulled up his vehicle near a tower-shaped building rising to the skies. It was a strange construction indeed – some floors were completely windowless while others contained as many as such a floor could.
There was something dark about this building nobody could precisely identify, yet it could be felt far and wide.
"Get out," Five ordered and left the car as well.
"Hopefully, they don't know I'm here yet," Five said as he headed for the stairs while dragging Roy behind him.
As they stood by the entrance, Five took out a falsified ID card and used it to gain access to the inside. They found themselves within a long corridor illuminated by many sterile lights reflecting on cleanly white floors and walls.
"Where are we?" Roy asked.
"The System Archive, number twelve. Does it ring a bell?"
"No, it doesn't," Roy said and silence ensued.
While Roy didn't have a glimpse of where they were going, Five appeared to have memorized the entire structure of the place as he easily navigated through the maze that spanned across the whole building and successfully evading everyone.
Roy was amazed but didn't cease to be afraid of having to serve as a human shield again. He secretly prayed that Five would let him go because he didn't have any courage to break free on his own.
Five's intentions, however, differed heavily. He viewed Roy as a reason why he could live for a little bit longer and should a situation that requires Roy to die arise, he'd gladly sacrifice him. His temporary interest in Roy's survival was the only thing both men shared.
They arrived at a large mainframe hub located within a poorly lighted room and full of beeping and blinking computer panels. The room was oval in shape and contained many curling and twisted tables with built-in controls and machines.
Roy was astounded how Five quickly mapped where he wanted to go and immediately started pacing towards his goal.
However, there was an obstacle in the way. Five noticed a security guard who must have fallen asleep on duty. Much to the watchman's dismay, Five quickly seized the opportunity to steal his handgun and shoot him in the head, ensuring that no complications would arise. After doing so, Five hid his body under a table with electronics in a dark corner.
While Roy silently watched, Five went on to operate the computer mainframe and try to dig some data. A large screen switched on as soon as Five hit a button on a panel near, revealing a large quantum of data through which Five surfed like they were sea waves.
"What is this thing and what are you doing? Is this the place where they store all information about people and evaluate them? I imagined it in a quite different way."
"It's only an archive," Five said and didn't elaborate further.
Roy didn't understand much of the data as they appeared to be written in some sort of a jargon unknown to him. He did piece together some of the information, however, as he noticed that Five was reading about something called the Great Database, inspecting upon things Roy couldn't comprehend.
"What's your number?" Five asked.
"M-mine?" Roy reluctantly asked while he realized that Five was browsing through a list led by the ones who denied him so many times. Under ordinary circumstances, Roy would have been amazed at what he saw, but given that if Five got to know Roy's uselessness, he wouldn't hesitate to kill him.
"Three, five, one, nine, hyphen, three, two, two," Roy lied his last number in hopes of Five stumbling upon a VIP person. Unfortunately, there was a photo included on the profile that soon showed on the screen. It clearly wasn't reminiscent of Roy's visage in any way.
"Are you trying to fool me?" Five said with a slight hint of madness in his voice, diverting his attention from the screen and turning to face frightened Roy, leaning to him with a gun pointing at him. "So?"
"I'm sorry," Roy tried to get out of the trouble he had wrought upon himself. "I mistook the last number. I always mix that up. It's not two but one. I swear!"
"You'd better be right…" Five uttered and turned back to the screen, typing the correct number into the console.
Roy felt that his heart was pounding so heavily he though it would jump out of his chest. He watched how Five confirmed the query and Roy's full profile along with a correct photo presented itself to Five.
Goodbye, friend, Roy whispered to himself whilst closing his eyes, expecting to be shot.
But nothing happened. Second after second passed yet Roy remained among the living. Was there something wrong?
Roy opened his eyes to see that gods must have smiled upon his otherwise miserable existence that day – he didn't know about schemes that the members of the First Ten were plotting against one another, namely One's tampering with the database.
"System figure code one. You are worth gold! I'm so damn lucky! Can you imagine that of all the people I managed to kidnap one of the most important people within the entire society? You're my free pass to heaven!" For a moment, Five appeared to have entered into a period of ecstasy.
Roy didn't care that much as he still couldn't believe his own eyes. Was he really that important after all? But then why had they denied him the right to have an offspring? Perhaps the strange administrative text contained some information as to why he couldn't have one despite being so important. Roy didn't dare to ask Five, however.
Meanwhile Five still dug through the archive terminal. Roy could notice strange red symbols pouring out of nowhere all of a sudden and realized they weren't a sign of anything good.
"We are pulling out, it's going to get hot very soon," Five said worried and closed the terminal connection.
"Where are we going?" Roy asked.
"To a place that should have never been," Five said enigmatically, dragging Roy again as if he was a slave.
"I'm tired," Roy complained.
"There is no time for whining," Five reviled and silence followed.
They left the room and once again navigated countless corridors until they could hear somebody speak.
"…nobody in the vicinity…" Roy heard.
Roy wanted to voice his fear over who was the speaker, but Five quickly silenced him by hitting him.
"In case you haven't noted, we have company," Five whispered to Roy and instead chose to take a different turn to evade hostiles.
They sneaked to a junction of corridors and it seemed that Five was hesitating for a while. It was as if he was waiting for something to happen, but that something wasn't coming.
Roy was getting nervous. Why were they standing on one place? Why weren't they on the move?
Finally, Five decided to go left and navigate through a crooked route that looked it would never end.
An unfortunate decision, however. The lights in the corridor turned red and Five could hear somebody rushing towards his location. There was no chance of escaping. He had to face whoever was coming his way.
Five braced for the conflict, his gun prepared to hit the incoming. As soon as he saw a glimpse of the closing hostile, he started shooting. A bullet came out of the barrel, followed by another. The hostile slipped and fell to the ground dead.
"You're damn good with a gun," Roy said.
Five instead started pacing through the corridor again, passing along the dead soldier and hiding him in a store room that happened to be just around the corner, leaving Roy's remark unanswered.
Though their cover was blown, they maintained their speed and made sure nobody caught them, eventually arriving at a platform with a large and chubby transport aircraft.
"Our way out," Five said and headed for it along with Roy.
They were only ten meters away from their goal when a door of the aircraft opened and transformed into a ramp.
Five stopped abruptly and Roy crashed into him from behind, yet Five stood firm and even managed to hold Roy, who battled to keep balance afterwards.
Not a moment had passed when a tall figure appeared standing at the entrance to the aircraft. Dressed in civilian clothes, the figure made a step out, thus revealing a wrinkly old face with grey hair.
"Seven!" Five exclaimed.
"Five," he said unsurprised. "How expectable."
"Why didn't it occur to me that you'd want to have a stab as well?"
"I worked with Three… I thought he could put an end to your scourge but when I heard the news that he blew it, I realized one has to do it on his own if he wants a thorough job."
"You did a mistake, however. Your people are inside while I'm just a step away from escaping as you see. I'm the one holding the cards. How could you possibly stop me now?"
"By killing you?" Seven laughed mildly.
"How would you do that?" Five asked and put Roy in front of him whilst aiming directly at Seven.
"For all I care, this puppet can die. I am prepared to take the consequences. Even if you'd manage to destroy the Great Database, it won't make a difference if it's me who kills you."
Five realized a problem in his tactics and suddenly threw Roy aside. Seven drew his submachine gun while Five already fired and hit Seven in his left arm.
Seven grunted as he retreated to the aircraft and Five didn't waste a moment to rush after him.
Five expected to finish the old man but when he stood within the door, an unpleasant thing happened as Seven leaped out of a hiding place crashing into Five with vigour and causing them both to fall to the platform while Five's weapon slipped out of his hands and fell out of the platform.
"You mad old idiot!" Five shouted as he tried to regain his breath and get Seven out of him.
"Why don't you die?!" Seven yelled while still holding his position and trying to aim his gun at Five, who was doing his best to push it out of the view.
The two struggled hard. Five was really amazed at how much strength the old man had. For a moment it seemed that Five started gaining the upper hand but a second after Seven was nearly ready to fire.
Thankfully, it had been just a temporary rage that had helped Seven to be winning for a while. Seven couldn't keep up as Five pushed him off himself, wrestling his weapon out of his hands.
Unfortunately for Seven, he rolled over and found himself on the edge of the platform. Five didn't wait long to push him out, but Seven persevered and grasped the ledge.
Five looked down on Seven, who tried to get back up, and stomped on his hand with full force. Seven's face twitched in pain as his left hand let go and his fate hinged on the other.
"Wait," Seven said, realizing he had lost. Although Five wanted to finish it, he waited to hear what Seven had to say. "I lied. Three heads the operation. He is inside the building. I tried to seize the opportunity to be the one who cast you down. I underestimated you. Please, if I can't be the one who wins, don't let Three to succeed where I failed." With these words, Seven released his grip over the ledge and silently fell to his doom.
"This one is gone," Five commented. He grabbed Seven's gun from the ground, got Roy to enter the aircraft and closed the ramp behind them.
It was an uncomfortable place like in any other transport, just a few seats and many storage containers crammed up in one large room with stairs dividing it into two floors, each having its own walking space. It looked exactly like a small archive.
"We'll hide in one of those," Five said and pointed to a group of large containers by the entrance. "Nobody stores anything in those anyway. I reckon it should take off within half an hour but since Seven couldn't know we were heading for this one, I believe Three used this one to get here and will use it to head for the Great Database. That means he and his men, who could finish searching within fifteen minutes, should be able to make it in twenty. Let's hope nobody finds us. You'd better stay quiet, understand?"
"Yes," Roy said as Five opened the container and they both went in. When they did, Five closed behind them, revealing that there was only a small peephole that allowed them to see out, but in fact served for things not to fall prey to mildew.
They had waited for approximately twenty minutes until the door opened and a large group headed by Three entered. It occurred to Five that he could have left his hiding place and kill his rival using the element of surprise, but then again, he wouldn't stand a chance against a fully armed group of soldiers.
"An hour of fuss and no trace of Five," Three ranted.
"Annoying," someone else said.
"He outsmarted us again but well, we could have seen it coming. We'll catch him at the Database. I wonder where Seven went though. Maybe that old fart has other plans, huh."
Five resisted the urge to laugh at Three's ignorance of Five being so close.
"At least we know…" Three continued, "unfortunately so, though, that his hostage is a top priority man within the society. We can't allow Five to kill him. He will probably aim to use him to force his way to the Great Database and destroy it. You are aware of the importance of it. If it falls, the entire civilization will find itself on the brink of a ruin. And you don't want to see that, believe me. So if Five happens to get near completion of his insane goal, stopping him no matter what assumes higher priority than the hostage's survival. But remember – only if he really gets near! Just in case any of you doesn't know when that happens, don't shoot until I give you the order, understood?"
"Yes, sir!" Three's men replied.
"Fine. We should arrive at the Great Database within an hour, until then, dismissed."
The aircraft had arrived at its destination earlier than expected – to everyone's enjoyment. Three made off muttering something rather happily while all his soldiers followed him. Five waited until they disappeared and closed the door behind themselves. Right after that, he and Roy left their hideout.
"They will enter the building in three… two… one… okay, we are clear to go," Five said and opened the door to reveal they were on a landing pad from which a ramp led their way to the insides of a rather small dome, but Five knew it was only a camouflage because the underground part of the Great Database spanned across an area as large as a town. It contained everything a world dominator would need. Laboratories carrying out top secret research, stations for emergency and police enforcement, worldwide monitoring centres and much more were but a small part of what the Great Database hosted within its walls.
"Come on," Five prompted Roy as they went through a large metallic door.
They found themselves within a large complex reminiscent of the archive. Only design differed. The Database was lavishly decorated in a technophile-like style – it was full of wires, metallic pieces and blinking devices.
Five knew exactly where to go so as to avoid obstacles. He remembered every single detail there was in the Database. He had an advantage over Three, who knew little about the Database's design and thus couldn't precisely know where to expect him.
But even Five didn't have a grasp of everything as he soon found out when he arrived at a junction. He knew that the turn left would lead him to a heavily guarded elevator, while the path to the right was the one he wished to take. It led to an auxiliary set of stairs where he planned to get into a ventilation shaft, but just as he arrived at the entrance to the stairway, he saw it was bolted shut and he had no chance of getting through tightly sealed metallic door.
"Damn," Five said out loud.
"What's wrong?" Roy wondered while he noticed that Five was in deep thought.
Roy waited and his anxiety rose – he was indeed afraid that somebody could come and Five's hesitation could turn out to be a costly one.
However, Five woke up to reality soon enough. Unfortunately for Roy, on the other hand, Five said something he'd never want to hear: "We will have to blast through a security force."
"A security force?!" Roy said horrified.
"Just follow me and stay silent!" Five uttered and dragged Roy through the hall.
Much to his astonishment, Five soon stood in front of the elevator but found it was completely abandoned. Was it a trap? Five didn't know what to expect, but seeing that it was the only way to get where he wanted, he had no other option.
"Let's get on and hope my worries aren't right," Five said and pushed Roy to the elevator.
Within a few seconds, they were on the desired floor, waiting for the door to open. Five dreaded the moment but he was prepared for the worst.
And then the doors opened, revealing nothing but an empty corridor full of luminous tubes with flashes of light flowing through them occasionally. It seemed as if they were guiding Five's way.
"Where is everybody?" Five wondered silently so Roy could only hear a murmur.
It indeed was very strange. Nobody within sight, nothing to stop Five from reaching his goal. He knew something was wrong but couldn't stop now that he was there.
It didn't take him long to arrive at a large hall connecting various facilities together. It was a breathtaking sight. It looked like a tangle of platforms, albeit an elegant one with smooth and slick curves that created the floating paths conjoining platforms together. It was a great hall where one false step could mean falling to a bottomless pit with dark walls and occasional red lights bleeping accompanied the unfortunate one.
The atmosphere of a dark place was emphasised by the emptiness that filled it, but only Roy felt enchanted by it because Five had already known what to expect and besides, he was still preoccupied with the alarming fact that nobody was around.
They navigated through the intertwinement and found themselves in black corridors where occasional lights placed irregularly on walls guided their way. Only few moments had passed until they stood in front of a small checkpoint panel which read: Permission granted.
Five started to get creeps. The more he knew he was near, the more he realized that it was a ruse. He was placing his hopes on Roy so that was what gave him a slight relief and strong reason why to continue.
He rushed through the door, knowing that time was at stake. He knew something was fishy and while he had checked every dark corner in the corridors, he hadn't seen any traps.
They found themselves in an even darker room with a platform and a few panels being illuminated by built-in lights. At last, Five thought to himself as he stood before the largest computer brain ever designed. Silent and darkish yet large and powerful, the computer core was hidden beneath the platform Five and Roy stood on.
A sudden rush of adrenaline engulfed Five's mind as he moved towards the control of the Great Database. He still bore in mind that it was slightly off that they had met with no resistance.
Could his enemies have been late? Could he have outsmarted them? Such a possibility looked very unlikely. Nevertheless, he found no obstacles or mantraps so he didn't waste a moment and began the process of erasing the entire Great Database.
Roy watched but he didn't understand even a single thing Five was doing. Within five minutes of vigorous work, Five was just one step away from finishing what he had started. A red button began flashing on the panel before him – pushing it would mean Five's success. If only it hadn't been for his fears.
"Game over," a gleeful voice sounded like an echo through the entire room. It belonged to Three. He had entered the room the same way Five had and brought along five fully armed soldiers.
"Not so soon!" Five responded as he grabbed Roy by the neck, pulling him close and aiming at his head. After countless of times, Roy finally began getting used to being treated like he was.
"I don't know how you bypassed the defence mechanism, but you proved to have outsmarted us once again. However, your luck has finally run out – no blanked cartridges this time."
"Weapons down!" Five ordered.
"No fooling anyone this time! You should lower your gun, not us!"
"I'm going to kill him!" Five shouted.
He was slowly retreating backwards along with his hostage, but what he didn't notice was there was somebody creeping up from behind. In a moment's time, that creeper leapt from his hiding place, knocking Five down along with Roy. As Five fell to the ground, his grip he held over Roy loosened and he slipped out. Five tried to shoot in a desperate attempt but missed.
Five wrestled with the assailant, who didn't want to let go and felt brave enough to fight Five with his bare hands. He didn't allow Five to roll over and held him face down, trying to wrest out the gun Five had. He eventually succeeded, all while Three and his men watched with their faces pale.
Especially Three was horrified as the brave man disobeyed his orders. That way they had no clear shot in the dark room and because Roy unwittingly obstructed their view, they found themselves in a tight situation.
And as they struggled, things got even more mixed up.
The otherwise cold and dark room turned quite bright as somebody switched on the lights that flowed through the room in a brief flash of time, blinding Five and Roy temporarily.
When they opened their eyes to grasp the new reality, Roy found the room was far larger than he had thought. The room actually had many exits. Many of them led to other rooms which were separated from where Roy was only by a layer of glass.
In one of such rooms stood a man of ancient looks, his face was as pale as ash, as wrinkly as a bulldog's head, his figure was crooked and frail.
"One!" Three shouted and shifted his attention to the enigmatic figure that, perhaps, for the first time allowed itself to be seen clearly.
"The endgame," he said in a confident voice. "The rest of the survivors are dead by my hand, save for Seven, who was killed by Five." One paused and waited for Three to glance briefly at Five, who was still lying under a soldier.
"I knew you'd do that sooner or later," said Three to One. "You… you idiot!"
"What did you expect, you naïve fool? That I'd let you running around? To think that you could see reason! Of all people on the Earth why did you have to survive? We agreed on a common goal, sacrificed our lives for the greater good – for there was nothing more than us, but how could I be such an idiot to actually believe that a handful of farmers and milkers would be intelligent enough not to be taken away by the vision of power?! It was I who gave you a chance to survive. It was I who designed the Great Database. It was I who created this new civilization – and you only walked along to reap the benefits of my work. Like brats, you tried to usurp power, forgetting that without me, you are nothing. Do you realize that now? Thankfully, I have enough responsibility over a twisted sense of revenge that I just haven't withdrawn and watched you get killed in a struggle for domination, then starting anew somewhere else!"
"Past is past, you know that," Three responded. "We are equal now!"
"Equal," One was amused. "Yes, I thought so when we started. I built this all with my own hands. Helped you to survive. Taught you to control the modern ways of life. You did nothing! You only leeched off that you could. Don't you remember the day I found you and took you to the bunker? You were sitting on a tractor with a straw in your mouth, dumbly staring into the ground. Could anyone expect that this stupid pile of a human being could learn how to use a gun and get corrupted by greed to devise a plan how to seize power? No. You prove that all people are corruptible. No exceptions."
"Maybe you're right, but you're forgetting I'm the one with a gun," Three said and shot at One, but the bullet didn't even scratch the glass.
One smiled. "The hillbilly lost all constraints and is now fully consumed by greed, isn't he? Shame it will cost you your life." As the last word left One's mouth, a member of Three's commando turned his firearms at Three and shot him in the head. It was a quick and painless death – Three didn't even realize he had a betrayer in his group.
It seemed as though One was in full control of the situation but there was still someone else, someone silent until that very moment. Someone who had decided to have his own input in that decisive time.
It was Roy. Something inside him had exploded. Like a switch, he had changed. No longer would he stand the injustice done unto him. He rose from the ground with Five's gun in his right hand and his left dangerously floating above the flashing red button. Three's cohorts didn't even have a chance to kill the defector. As soon as they noticed Roy's dangerous position, all the eyes watching him, they aimed at his head.
"I spent countless of years being bullied by the system, waiting for a chance like this. Now that it's here, I'm not going to let it pass me by. I demand explanation. What the heck are you talking about? What new civilization, what database, what survivors? Answer me or this entire building is going to hell!"
"Amusing," said One. "The creation has turned against its creator. Well, since it wasn't directly my doing that brought you here, you should look elsewhere… but on the other hand, I believe you've had enough and there is no point in prolonging your misery any further."
"So explain!" Roy said in a maniacal voice.
"Two hundred years ago, a cataclysm came. Our civilization had been engaged in a long and costly war and as it had raged on nobody had noticed we had signed our death warrant. In a desperate attempt to save our race, a scientific company started working on a plan – a way that would not only ensure our survival but also a world without wars.
Foundations of the Great Database were laid. A vast data centre containing information about genetic structures and their realizations in life. Our aim was to ensure that humankind's gene pool remained clear of imperfections yet diverse enough to support a viable and variable population.
It wasn't that easy, because the war was slowly killing us off as many were recalled to other places where they died. In the end, only I remained. Left with the blueprints of a future civilization at the dawn of the last day, I went out to seek the survivors. It was so silent yet I knew war was still raging out there with generals nuking the planet from afar. But even they died that day.
I searched for survivors. I found and hid eleven people, two of which died within few days. They were mostly commoners – farmers and cleaners alike. I taught them how to use the Database. I taught them how to use weapons, how to plant trees, how to cultivate the land, how to make the planet thrive once again.
The Database wasn't and isn't only a container of data but also a vast artificial intelligence seeing to a cycle of life. First clones with shortened lifespan were created soon. While you live for seventy years, we can live six times longer. You age significantly quicker.
Those clones lived and died, creating a new generation as we monitored it and allowed the favourable mutations to prosper while leaving others to wither. We are currently in process of searching for the perfect civilization. However, our goal for the world without wars has been fulfilled.
It was to be a paradise. A new world. But then the other survivors – they started to get blinded by the power they had. It was understandable, however, as they didn't have the brains to do the overseeing I did – they didn't even comprehend my work. They got used to having rights but no responsibilities. And that was a mistake that has led us here.
Thankfully for me, nobody really understood the true power of science, resorting to brutish hunts and chases, thus leaving me with absolute power over what was happening. Event after event, I managed to get the rebelling citizen five here along with you.
You see, I am not evil. I am the one who is good. All the others… just hillbillies wanting power. I am sorry that it had to come to this, I understand you might be upset about the truth not a single one of you should have ever known, I even understand that you might not comprehend it yet…"
"So that's it?" Roy interrupted One. "Am I a clone? A tool, an instrument? This is… morbid!"
Roy lost his senses, his hand struggling to push the button and end it. His hesitation could have proven to be fatal. While some soldiers were questioning their existence as they realized they, too, were just clones, others in the room were preparing to shoot Roy.
"Let him press that button." One said in a calm voice. "You wouldn't think I'd let anyone get into the Database that easily and destroy it, would you?"
Roy felt a sudden outburst of hatred, but because he didn't understand anything the Database was saying and he wanted to get revenge, his aim shifted – his target becoming Five, who had been watching the scene helplessly while being pinned to the ground.
"At last… my revenge," Roy said as he shot Five in the head.
"Soldiers, friends, I understand some of you might be angry, but there is nothing you can do. I am sorry that it had to end like this and ask you to understand that while I have put a great burden on you to know that you aren't natural creations, you must realize that I had no other option. I am doing it for the greater good. Imagine how many people had died before. Imagine how many you were taught about in schools died in vain, lived a miserable life and died hopeless. Imagine that their lives were much worse than yours as they resembled day-flies. Now imagine that you are the ones who carry the torch of hope. Imagine that for the billions that died in vain, you are the ones who really matter. Imagine that it will be you who lived a purposeful existence.
Besides, what is the difference between being created by nature and science when science is nothing but our tool, a tool of people that came from nature? Science is a part of us as we are a part of nature. Therefore, there is no difference in things natural and you. You carry the same value as anyone before the cataclysm. We are alike… like brothers. Now go… go and live."
The words echoed throughout the room, enlightening those who had lost faith, reaching deeply into their souls. They were so convinced they willingly left, forgetting their allegiance to Three and the realization of being clones. Only one man remained, however. It was Roy. He dropped to the ground and sobbed.
One walked down a set of stairs and eventually came to the room where Roy was. He clapped him on the back and Roy looked up to him – like a son to his father. His eyes were full of tears yet behind them one could see that he found comfort in that old man.
One helped Roy to stand up and together they disappeared within the dark corridors that led Roy and Five to the room in the first place. Lights switched off as the sounds of footsteps went deaf.
The place remained devoid of a living soul as only two corpses of the former survivors lied face down on the ground, serving as a reminder to what had happened. The room didn't remain silent for long, however, as One soon returned.
He walked to the panel with the red button, took a deep breath as if he was deciding over something. Then he closed his eyes and firmly pressed the button, revealing the reason he used to talk Roy out of pressing it was a lie.
Meanwhile all over the world, people started dropping dead as the Database purged itself and the entire planet, destroying every information it contained and every person that walked the Earth except for One. The world became blank that moment – nothing remained standing but monuments and buildings.
One could never be certain that the carnage caused by the survivors' defiance didn't spread beyond his knowledge, allowing the notion of war to infect minds with unrest great enough to bring annihilation upon the world once again. Even though he had quelled the disobedient men with a thirst for power, he also destroyed a two-centuries-worth work.
There was silence on the surface of the planet as the day slowly turned to night. So much to be done, One thought to himself. He had exactly twelve hours before the dawn on a new day would come, realizing that a large journey was ahead of him. He didn't know what to expect but he could be sure about one thing – that it would be done right this time.