NU-PROJECT: Initiation Chapter 07
He holds the tattoo pen like a paintbrush of a professional artist. I look up to a wall mirror and I see Benedict's eyes focused on my back – like an artist painting on a canvas The only difference is that the canvas is me.
"You don't look like you're in pain, Agila." Donovan speaks through his teeth.
Donovan just had his tattoo inked on his back and he looks like he is struggling to contain the pain. Compared to normal tattoo inks, the inks used in our tattoos is different. It is like petroleum jelly but with a lot of sanitizing substances that stings really bad. The smell of the ink is like isopropyl alcohol – only stronger.
Not to forget, the ink also contains the same substance used to knock me out when Rhionan found me and when they held me in the observation tube – only trace amounts of it. The substance, also known as Neutralizer, slows down my body's regenerating cells from regenerating quickly. It is not the liquid that numbs my sense of touch. That will be a different substance which I do not know of yet.
"I am used to pain, Donovan." I lie, feeling the urge to scream my head off.
Azukal snickers behind Benedict; the tattoo artist, colonel, and the head of communications of The Fort.
"The concentration of the Neutralizer in your tattoo ink is much higher compared to Donovan's." Azukal laughs, enjoying the sight of my discomfort. "You'll be feeling the burn for a long while. When will you start screaming like Donovan?"
"Shut up, Azukal." Donovan barks, his voice sounds more tensed.
The door of the room slides open. Rhionan steps into the room with an angry expression on her face. Benedict wipes my back with a cloth and pats it – smiling.
"It should heal up within an hour." Benedict says, placing his tattoo pen in a container. "Just don't cover it up."
I feel the burn from my left shoulder and down to my waist. It is a really big tattoo. I can feel the intricate patterns on my back - swirls and straight lines.
"I did not order for them to be marked." Rhionan growls, "Who gave the order?"
"I did, supreme commander." Azukal replies with his eyes looking down.
"Explain to me," Rhionan demands, "why?"
"Halaman was taken, Rhionan. It is only right for The Fort to immediately initiate Agila and Donovan into the organization. You need to send Delta out to rescue him and, I need them!"
"They are not ready!" Rhionan shouts, her anger can be felt in her voice. "Agila and Donovan have a lot to learn. We can't send them out."
"Then, we have to force them to learn fast!"
"You are not the leader here, Azukal!" Rhionan roars. "Remember your place and remember it well. I am the leader and I will let the other teams handle this."
"I can and I will, Azukal! As long as your emotions are high, you are dangerous. A danger to everyone and if I send you out, you might endanger the lives of your teammates. You know that and you should learn to control it."
"You always say that, Rhionan!" Azukal argues, "I'm not a boy anymore!"
"You are a boy, Azukal! Look at the way you're reacting to the current situation! If I let you in the rescue mission with your emotions running wild, will you guarantee that you'll not lose your mind?"
Azukal takes a step back - beaten. The message in Azukal's communicator must be a false one. As Donovan and I lay on our bellies, the wordy fight between Rhionan and Azukal seems to have stopped.
I have never seen Azukal so desperate and so lost before. He looks like a boy without a brother - scared and lost.
"And as for you, Benedict," Rhionan focus her attention to the tattoo artist. "Why did you agree to this?"
"I owe Azukal, ma'am." Benedict replies straight-forward and stiff - cleaning his instruments. "I owe Halaman and Azukal a favor. They broke their probation rule, which got them into trouble, to rescue my daughter from JS-rohm. By breaking the initiation rule, I believe it is a small price to pay for their selflessness. And I don't think I need to tell you who were the ones who kidnapped my daughter and brainwashed my wife, right?"
Rhionan's facial expression relaxes. She folds her arms and let out a long sigh. From the looks of the situation, I have a feeling that everyone in The Fort might have been victims of JS-rohm.
"Fine." Rhionan says, "Listen up, Delta. This will be your first mission."
Azukal's face lights up immediately. Donovan looks uncertain as he tries to sit up on the table. I do the same even though the pain is close to unbearable.
"The communication system in The Fort's southern branch is still down due to repairs and reconstruction of the facility." Rhionan continues to explain, "I need you to send a message to them."
"What kind of message?" Donovan asks.
"Simple," Rhionan replies, "a written letter from me. I want it sent by tomorrow afternoon or at least before I officially initiate Phase Two. Can it be done?"
"It can be done." Azukal replies.
Rhionan nods her head and walks to the door.
"I'll send you a message through the communicator when the letter is ready." She says, as she walks into the hallway.
The room falls silent again. A choking atmosphere replaces the anger-filled one. Azukal frowns. I think he knows that Rhionan is not going to let Delta take on the rescue mission. Donovan, on the other hand, slowly makes his way to me and sits beside me - his body is still twitching from the pain.
"So," Donovan breaks the depressing silence, "team meeting?"
I do not know what to say so I nod my head instead and wear my shirt - feeling my skin sting as the harmless cloth touches my back. Azukal folds his arms and face Donovan and I - his eyebrows are crossed and his jaw are clenched.
"I know that look, Azukal!" Benedict suddenly shouts from the back of the room, "Don't you dare try to do it!"
Azukal's eyes glitters with excitement and his faint smile looks almost evil.
"What are you thinking of, Azukal?" Donovan questions.
Azukal's smile is now visible.
"Who wants to break some rules?" Azukal asks with a hint of mischief.
"Azukal," Benedict says, "as much as you want Halaman back safe and sound, I don't want you to break anymore rules that will lead you and the rest of Delta in trouble."
Donovan walks over to Azukal.
"Come on, man." Donovan says, trying to calm him down. "She's doing this for your own good and for the good of everyone in The Fort."
Donovan stretch out his hands to pat Azukal. As soon as his hand comes in contact with Azukal's arm, Azukal holds on to his wrists. Before I can react to what is about to happen, Azukal gives Donovan the hateful glare.
"Don't touch me, human!" Azukal growls madly as he twists Donovan's wrists. "You don't know anything about me and Halaman."
Azukal then pushes Donovan to the wall. Donovan screams loudly but he fights the pain and counters the attack by slamming his entire body against Azukal - like in football. The both of them fall to the ground – fighting like little boys.
I step into the fight to separate them but I receive a punch from Azukal causing me to fall on my back. I stand up again and Benedict intervenes. I join him to separate the boys.
"I'll take on Azukal," I shout to Benedict, "and you take Donovan!"
Benedict nods his head and quickly slots himself in between the fighting boys. I grab Azukal by his hair and pull him down to the ground – smashing it at the same time. I kneel on his body and deliver a crushing blow to his face. I can feel his skull crack under my fist – causing his head to bleed.
"Look at yourself, Azukal!" I snarl loudly next to his ear, my instinct is telling me to intimidate the wolf. "Hurting a human out of anger? You are no better than the scums back in JS-rohm. If you are angry, you fight someone of your own size. You fight me."
I lift him up and land one last punch on to his chest – stopping his heartbeat for a while. I turn to Donovan. Benedict is looking at his wrists.
"How is he?" I ask Benedict on Donovan's condition.
"At the most, I think his wrists might be fractured. I need to bring him to the surgery room to see it for myself."
"Take him there now." I say, pointing to the door.
Benedict nods his head and takes Donovan out of the room. I hope Donovan is fine. I turn my attention back to Azukal who I waking up from his dazed state. I take a few steps away from him – trying to figure out if it was his wolf-self who was controlling him or himself.
"How are you feeling now?" I ask, watching the tone of my voice carefully.
"I think I need to report this to Rhionan." He sighs deeply, slowly taking out his communicator.
"Okay." I murmur. "Azukal, do you need help getting up?"
"As long as you don't shut me down again, yes." he says, frowning. "I need your help."
He slots his communicator back in his side pocket as I walk over to him. I wipe away the thick line of blood on his cheek and mouth. I offer him my hand and he takes it. I carry him up to his feet and he limps. I can see and hear his body healing itself.
"I think I can stand on my own now, thank you." He says as he shakes his head.
"Going to your isolation room again?" I ask.
"Yeah," He sighs. "I need some time alone. Just enough time to cool down."
According Halaman, Azukal has not been able to control his emotions since he started having transformations. Once in a while he will go berserk. He has wolf-like instincts which would usually lead him to think like an alpha wolf - forceful, fierce and intimidating.
Rhionan had a theory that if he achieves complete transformation, he might be able to regain control over his emotions and not to forget the time he spends in his transformed-self could be unlimited - which means that he will be able to stay a werewolf for life if he chooses to.
As I clean up the mess the boys made in the room, my communicator starts ringing. I flip it out and it is Rhionan. She sent me a text. I let out a deep and tired sigh. She wants me in her office. I reply her text. I want to finish cleaning up the room before I head down to her office. I tap on the send icon and my reply is sent.
I mop up the inks that have spilled on to the floor and place everything back to how it was, or at least place them back to where I can remember them to be. The door slides open and Benedict enters the room.
"Oh," he says, sounding a little startled. "You're still here."
"Yeah, I am." I reply.
"The boy," he continues, "Donovan, right?"
"He's going to be fine. He had a fractured bone but he'll be fine before sunrise. If you can't seem to wake him up, it's fine. It's the side effect of the medicine I injected into his body. Just make sure that his heart rate does not stray too far from normal."
I nod my head.
"Leave the rest to me, private." He says, "I know that the supreme commander wants to speak to you."
"Yes, sir." I acknowledge his order.
I pass him the mop I was using and make my way out. Benedict seems to be used to seeing fights. The way that he handled the fight was as if he had done it several time before.
The Fort seems to be very quiet - too quiet. Ever since the announcement for the initiation of Phase Two, the white hallways is empty and I cannot catch the scent of anyone.
As I walk down the stairs, to the lowest level of The Fort, I feel a sharp-numbing pain in my back. Suddenly, I freeze as I am about to take the next step down. Like in slow motion, I fall forward and tumble down the staircase like a ball - the pain around my back is blinding.
I hit a white wall with a big impact. The pain in my back slowly disappears. Could it be from the tattoo? I stand up and shake my head to clear my vision. I do not think that it is the tattoo that caused the pain. It felt like something was under my skin.
A door opens at the end of the hallway, it is Rhionan.
"I felt a tremble," she shouts, running towards me. "Is everything okay?"
"Everything is fine, ma'am!" I reply, "I just fell down the stairs."
Rhionan is now standing in front of me - offering me her hand. I take it and she pulls me up to my feet.
"Falling down that flight of stairs is not fine, Agila." She says, giving me the weird look.
"For a human." I say.
Rhionan does not say anything else. She puts her arms around me and we walk to her office. I can sense her depression. She invites me in and I take a seat in front of her desk.
"I want you to be in-charge of Delta for this mission." Rhionan says, "I need someone who is stable enough to handle the situation."
"Why not Donovan?" I ask. "He is the most emotionally stable soldier in Delta."
"After the fight he had with Azukal? I don't think so." Rhionan says, "He'll have a grudge against Azukal. Plus, he is not trained in modern warfare. I need a neutral leader. I need you to be the one."
I do not say another word. She is right. I am the only one in Delta who has the capability of leading others. Rhionan takes a seat at the other side of her desk - opening a drawer and taking out a photo frame.
"Beautiful," she says, turning the frame around to show me the picture. "Isn't it?'
I look at the photo. It is Rhionan and a child in her arms. The man sitting beside her must be her husband, Andrew. I look at the child carefully. My jaw drops.
"You wanted know who your biological parents." She chokes, holding on to what little sanity she had. "Halaman does not know who his parents are but, I do."
"It's you." I say under my breath, "You're his mother and-"
"Andrew is his father." She completes my sentence.
I am speechless. Halaman is her son! I feel burning rage boiling within me. Did she participate in the nuproject on her own will? There are so many questions and so little answers.
"You," I growl, "did you-"
"No, I did not participate in the nuproject. I didn't even know that they held experiments on my son." Rhionan says, "I only found out when I did a DNA test on Halaman and Azukal. After that I had my memories came back."
"You were brainwashed?" I question her.
"Yes, I was. I even checked the documents we stole from The Facility. I am his mother. My trigger word was Ronan. I can remember fighting the scientists before they brainwashed me."
"How about mine?"
Rhionan breaks my eye contact. She does not have to say it, I already know the answer. She does not have my documents.
"I'm so sorry, Agila." She apologizes, "We didn't have the time and the manpower to steal all the documents and equipments from The Facility. I hope you understand."
I nod my head slowly. I do understand. I understand it all perfectly but a part of me does not want to understand. I believe that it is the human me making me feel this way.
"Good," she says, looking into my eyes and holding up a blue folder. "This is Delta's first mission."
She slides the files across the table and before it falls off the edge, I stop it with my hands. I open the file and I see a memory card and a white pill with a shield printed on it. I lift up the plastic holding the pill.
"You'll be having a messenger mission." Rhionan says as she clamps her hands together. "You'll be sending these items to the southern branch of The Fort. Team Charlie will meet you at the south half-way point."
"South half-way point?" I ask, putting the items back into the file and taking out the briefing documents.
"Yes," she replies, "from the halfway point, you'll be flying to the Southern Fort."
As I skim through the briefing documents, the Southern Fort is in Palawan. I place everything back into the file and close it. I hold on to it and look up to Rhionan's emotionless face.
"You'll be leaving for the Southern Fort in about two hours. Gather your team. Pack your bags." She says under her breath. "Good luck."
I stand up from my seat and walk to the door with the blue flie. As I reach out for the door knob, I look back. Rhionan's eyes are on the photo of her baby boy, Ronan - Halaman as a normal human child.
"Don't worry, Rhionan." I try to assure her, "We'll bring your boy back. Trust in us."
I see Rhionan's lips say thank you but no sound came out of her mouth. She holds her face with her hands and then, she cries - soft and painfully. I watch her break apart as door slides close.
I feel my chest burn and hurt. I cannot imagine how painful it must be for Rhionan. Afterall, Halaman is her long lost son. I think it must be painful to the extent that ripping out her own heart would sound like a good idea.
I reach the same staircase I fell from. Looking up, I wonder what had happened to me when I was going down the staircase. The pain felt more internal than external. Could it be my body reacting to the tattoo's ink? The ink does contain a special chemical that will temporarily slow down my regeneration.
Or could it be a forming a scar? Benedict did take twice the time taken to finish inking the tattoo on my back than on Donovan's.
I think the humans are testing this new chemical on us numans to see if it works. If it works on Azukal and Halaman, it would work for everyone of us. This special chemical must be the human's only way of defeating us if we ever happen to go against them.
Rhionan is smart to think of this. Or should I say, prepared? Although the thought of it makes me feel insecure, I am trying to think of it as a way for the humans to ensure their survival. Afterall, we numans are immortal. And as for humans, their time is limited.
Instead of climbing the stairs normally, I jump up - skipping a couple of steps as I go. About three levels up and I reach the isolation chambers. This level is special. The halls are not white. It is red. Well, the lights makes the entire level fire-engine red with lights are dimed.
I walk through the poorly lit hallways. Azukal's personal isolation room is right at the edge of the entire level. Surrounding his isolation room is six security check points. It is extremely inconvinient but, for the safety of everyone in The Fort, such precaution is nescessary.
According to Halaman, there was a time when Azukal went berserk and he destroyed nearly the entire isolation level. After that incident, they had to expand the isolation level to make room for Azukal's personal isolation room. Azukal goes there so often that it has become his own room.
I walk through the first security check point and a group of soldiers stare at me. One of them is holding a Neutralizer bullet. The sight of the bullet scares me. The concentration of the neutralizer in the bullet might be high or even, pure - enough to keep my flesh open for days if I am hit.
Now that I think of it, the stinging pain on my back is gone. I pat the area where Benedict inked and I feel no pain. I walk to a nearby mirror and pull my shirt up - enough to see the crest of Delta - The winged wolf holding a shield and a spear with an olive branch around it.
It is a little translucent and pink. My skin must have healed up enough that it does not hurt anymore. I roll my shirt back down and smooth it down. I look back up and I see a sea of... Me.
I am everywhere. It is confusing. What kind of room is this? I walk straight towards my otherselves and I reach out to feel my mirrior image. It is cold. I realize that this is the mirror room - where many have lost their way.
I look around me and my mirror image is everywhere. Panic starts to fill my mind. How on earth can I get through this room without getting lost? I feel my body tremble. This hallway was built to confuse Azukal long enough for the soldiers in The Fort to take him down.
I cannot panic. Not now. I have to calm myself down. This is an illussion. I have to have a calm mind and walk straight. The exit through this room is on the other side. I can make it. I can.
I walk straight and try my best not to be fooled by the mirrors. I feel my way through and remember my steps as I go. Glass after glass, I pass each mirror until finally, the exit door is ahead of me.
I enter the exit and another squad of soldiers are stationed there. They watch me carefully. Their eyes look at me as if I am someone who will kill them in a blink of an eye. I am not surprised because I can indeed end their lives in a blink of an eye.
I walk pass them and look ahead. I can still sense their glares piercing right through me. The rest of the way to Azukal's isolation room is normal, just like an empty hallway. I pass by a groups of soldiers on guard duty and other than that, a sprinkler that sprinkles neutralizer liquid.
From my observations, I guess a special bullet may not be enough to subdue a numan. They had to install special neutralizer sprinklers for an even more effective way to subdue a numan. The Fort is more than prepared to keep itself safe from a numan attack. It is operationally built to subdues us when there is a need to.
I pass the final security check point and the last batch of soldiers guarding Azukal's isolation room. They are in their Numan Protection Gear, also known as NPG.
There are so many abbreviations to remember in The Fort. Sometimes it gets annoying but I have to understand. Time is life. Spend too much time talking to your teammates during a mission, you might be killed by the enemy.
"Halt, private." A soldier orders me.
"What is wrong, sir?" I ask.
"She's from Delta, Chris." One of them says, tapping the shoulder of the one who asked me to stop.
"Suprise, surprise," the soldier folds his arms, shoving away the arm tapping on his shoulder. "How did you manage to get through the mirror hall so fast? Even Azukal gets lost in that hall. Who gave you the coordinates to get through it so fast?"
"I stayed calm and walk straight." I reply honestly.
"You sure about that, private?" Chris questions, "You got through the mirror hall within a minute. An average man would take at least ten. Who gave you the coordinates?"
"No one. I really-"
Azukal opens the door to his isolation room and all of the soldiers point their guns on him. Azukal raises both of his hands above his head.
"I can hear you, corporal." Azukal growls, "Speaking to a private as if she isn't your own. It's digraceful. It's pathetic. You are pathetic."
"Lower your guns!" One of the men behind Chris shouts.
"I'm just doing my duty, sir." Chris replies, lowering his gun at the same time.
Azukal walks towards him and his eyes are shining silver.
"This girl standing right infront of you," Azukal smiles a devilish smile, "she is the best navigator in the world. It does not surprise me if she finds her way around fast. She has photographic memory that even you, corporal Christian, and I can't beat."
The corporal does not say another word.
"You have the crest of Delta etched on your skin. We respect and honor each other like family. We fight for each other. We are the loyal. We are the brave. We are the ones who'll fight for a good cause. Remember that, Christian. You are in Delta. Be like one."
Christian bows down to apologize and takes a step back. Azukal's shining silver eyes can only mean one thing. He had a transformation. His eyes will shine when he is in wolf mode and for a while after he reaches his limit.
Azukal walks in front of me, holding my hand as he does.
"I've received the supreme commander's orders, Agila." Azukal says, looking into the red corridor. "I'll get our bags packed. If you need more men, you know where to get them."
"I didn't know there were others from Delta." I say, "I thought Team Delta was just the four of us."
"We skipped the Delta initiation test." Azuka smiles, "You and your buddy, Donovan, were suppose to go through it and the whole of Team Delta will have an initiation party when you pass the test. Which also includes the tattoo ceremony."
"How big is Delta?" I ask.
"Hmmm." He thinks, "I believe we have around a hundred and fifty men and women. All of them are between the ages of 13 to 46 and are physically and mentally fit to be sent out for missions."
"Wow," I gasp, "I think I'll stick with only you and Donovan for this mission. I don't want to have a big team."
"Good choice," Azukal smiles, as we breeze through the mirror hall. "I'll pack everyone's bag up. Go and check on Donovan for me."
"You'll have to apologize to him." I say, letting his hand go. "You did hurt him."
Azukal looks into my eyes. The shine in his eyes are gone. Replacing it is the eyes of a guilty man.
"I know." He replies, "I should get going and you should too. Donovan is in the recuperating room just above this level. Benedict gave him a healing boost. I think his wounds should be fine now."
Azukal walks down the same staircase I used. Just below the isolation chambers is the weapons and goods storage level. Everything you need can be found there. Before every mission, one must have a custom packed bagpack to carry during missions.
I walk up the staircase and into the hospital and healthcare level. Like all the other chambers and levels in the Fort, the walls and floor is white. As I walk in deeper and look into the glass windows, I can see on-going operations and surgery. Some of the rooms in this level are rehabilitation centers too.
Finally, I reach the recuperation room. Donovan must be inside. The door slides open and I see Donovan sitting in front of a nurse. Suddenly, I feel my back hurt again – feeling something crawl under my skin.
"Hey," Donovan shouts from across the room, "is something wrong, Agila?"
"No," I lie, waving the blue file in my hand. "Nothing's wrong."
I hope this back ache situation does not get worst but, my gut tells me this is just the beginning.
A/N: The team is ready but is Agila prepared for what is to come? Just what is Phase Two and who is in Team Charlie?
A/N: Happy belated Valentines Day! I hope you guys went around spreading the love(To your significant other, friends and family)~ I'm super sorry about the late publish of this chapter! I had to delete a couple of scenes and rewrite the entire chapter because of the deleting of scenes. :) Please continue to support! Follow this story if you like it! Don't forget to drop a review! :D Also, this story is available in Wattpad but, I publish chapters earlier here in Fictionpress! :D To my faithful readers, thank you for your continued support! See you all in the next chapter! Do tell me how you feel about this chapter in the review! Don't forget to review! :D