The Dark Kind _
Without. That was what we were. Without light, without homes, without families, without hope. We were those who had been cast down, out of hatred for the color of our skin, the brightness in our eyes and the defiance that lived inside us. We knew so little from the time we were cast down until this moment; we knew only that we hated our rulers, our leaders, our heroes with a passion that burned so bright it lit even the darkest corners of our prison. We knew only that those heroes would burn at our hands, just as our parents had burned at theirs.
And now in this moment, I lay here as my strength drains away and I know that I will not live to see the outcome of my struggle, of our struggle. And I would not change a thing. Because of the events that have led to this violent end, the imprisoned, the hopeless, the cast down, are finally going to see a light that comes from a sky with clouds, and not a ceiling with drawings from generations past who could not dream of what it means to be free. And for once, it is not one person who carries the burden of leadership; it is the people together, us of the underground, us of the resistance, who must bear this burden together.
To my heroes, my rulers, my King; my army is one of angels, and they will bow to no man. The blood of their families is on your hands, and they will not stop until your blood is on theirs'.
Shadows leapt and danced on the ground and ceiling of The Chamber, the fire in the trash can giving them life. As far as the eye could see, there were no walls. The flickering shadows licked the faces of the men and women standing in a ragged circle around the fire.
"Ephah is dead. Nuwairah has been taken by Heroes"
A stunned silence followed this statement, even emptier than the one that had preceded it. The people gazed at the man from whom these words had issued forth. His shoulders were hunched in defeat, his eyes full of despair. The same thoughts crossed the minds of all present; 'How could this happen? How could they have gotten so close, only to fail, only to have the Young Ones taken from them?'
Out of the darkness that surrounded them a piercing wail echoed through The Chamber. Everyone present knew that cry, though it could not have come from any of them; only a mother who had lost a child could muster such a cry of agony. Houla was the only woman in The Dark that knew what it was to have a child; only she could know what it was too lose one.
"Where is the body of the Young One?" A woman asked the man quietly, "Uriah, where is Ephah's body?"
"Taken" Uriah answered, his voice quiet as well. "Houla will not see either of her children again. And I am afraid that we have failed, just as our parents did. And like them we will burn for it"
There was not a whimper of panic, nor was there a cry of despair other than that of the mother. There was only a resigned silence as, one by one, The Defiant Few sank to their knees and sat silent and ready. Each of them knew what response they had evoked from the King and his Heroes. Though the closest wall was miles away, they could still here the grating sound of the vents opening. They had not been opened since the purge of the previous generation. And now, it would happen all over again. Uriah could not remember what number this would be; their generation was perhaps the eighth to be purged since the Dark Kind had been banished to The Chamber.
Uriah was the last to kneel. He watched as the others knelt in defeat. This scene was too familiar. But he knelt all the same. Because they had not been able to succeed where their parents had failed. Because now, it was their turn to burn for their defiance of their King and their hatred of their Heroes. Uriah closed his eyes and pictured the scene that had brought his hope, the hope of all of the Dark Kind, crashing down. Somehow, they had been discovered. Somehow, the King had known and had sent Heroes. Ephah did as he was supposed to; it comforted Uriah to think that Ephah's dying thoughts must have been triumphant; Ephah thought that he had succeeded in triggering the Shutdown.
A low rumble emanated from the far off walls, and Uriah squeezed his eyes more tightly shut. That last image that flashed through his mind was of Nuwairah cradling her older brother in her arms, her face twisted in despair as she gazed down at Ephah's still face. Uriah was sorry for the Young Ones.
Then the flames came, and the screams began. The fire erupted from the vents in the wall and spread across the miles of underground, enveloping every wretched soul below that city of heroes. Uriah whispered the same word that had been repeated for generations as far back as any of the Dark Kind could remember. They knew not what it meant; they only knew that they had to say it before death.
The light that shone down on the long oval table, reflecting directly off the middle and seeping towards the edges, lit the faces of the men that sat around it. The man that sat at the head of the table gazed slowly around the table at faces that refused to return his steady gaze. The eyes of the men present flickered nervously as their king's cruel eyes surveyed them. Finally the man to the left of the king spoke.
"The purge has been completed. The cleaners will be there within the hour"
"How did they know about the trigger?" the king asked.
The man glanced nervously around the table before replying, "We don't know. But there is something else. It's about the two young Dark Kind that we captured."
"Yes, I did wonder. The youngest of this generation should be about forty, why was there two such young ones? Were there a few Dark Kind created without my knowledge?"
"No. These young ones were not created by us"
"That cannot be right, we are the only in the city with the resources to have a creation lab. Are you saying there is a renegade creator?"
"No. These young ones…"
The king narrowed his eyes at the man who seemed at a loss for words. "Speak up, I don't have time for this, a public address is called for and the people will become restless if I wait for much longer."
"They have the mark of birth on them. Both of them. We are currently running tests to make sure, but I think that we will find that they are biologically brother and sister."
"Then they were born...naturally? They have a biological mother then?" The king said, his voice deadly soft.
The man to whom the king directed his question looked down, avoiding the king's eyes. "Yes, that is what it looks like. We don't know how it's possible; the last recorded fertile female was nearly one hundred years ago. For this to happen…I don't understand it myself. Especially for it to be a woman of the Dark Kind."
"I have feared that this would happen, but I never imagined that it would be a woman of the Dark Kind…Where are the young ones now?"
"The boy was seriously injured; the Hero who shot him did not notice the mark on his belly until after he had almost bled out. The girl was fine when the Hero found her, but she attacked him during transportation and he killed her body. The boy is in an artificial womb, the girl's entity is in a preservation tank. She needs a body within the next twelve hours or her entity will die."
"No, even if we did reprogram them what would be the use? The girl's body is lost, so we will not be able to figure out whether or not she was fertile. Why do you keep the boy? Male fertility is not a problem"
"Both Karen and I believe that the both of them could be invaluable in our research. The boy will take about a month to heal, and then we can take him out. The girl may be able to tell us about her mother, and we also have to figure out how they knew about the trigger. It can't hurt to keep them around and study them, figure out what happened in this generation that has lead them to revolt like the previous generation. These revolts are a strange occurrence that has happened only within the last two generations; that other generation never did anything like this. "
The King rose slowly and walked to a window that looked out on the dark streets of his city. He took a deep breath and turned back to the men. After a moment of thoughtful silence he said, "Tell Karen that she must not hesitate to kill the boy, should he become a threat. For the girl, take a child from The Bottoms and use that body, no one will miss such a child."
He looked harshly at his counsel, considering his next words carefully.
"Gentlemen" he began finally, "The Dark Kind must be feared by the people. It would cause chaos if they found out that the Dark Kind are not what they have been told they are. I remember when every man here was informed; I remember when each and every one of you was initiated into the Closed Circle, you were informed of the true nature of the Dark Kind, and the reason for their creation. Our city is closed to what used to be the rest of the world, and what is now but a barren wasteland void of life; in that old world there were so many enemies that complete unity was impossible, and a utopia such as the one that now exists in our city, unimaginable. The peace in our city comes from our sense of unity, and that unity comes from having a common enemy. For generations, the Kings of this city and their Heroes have maintained the delicate balance between controlled fear and panic amongst the people. This fear cannot be underestimated in its' importance in keeping the peace."
The king paused as he glared at each man around the oval table.
"It has occurred to me, and I am sure the same has occurred to all of you, that this generation of Dark Ones who have rebelled could not have known about the trigger without help. I can only assume that this means that there is a traitor in our midst. A precious few people know about the trigger. For the weak hearted, it is easy to come to sympathize with this Dark Kind which we have created. They are not evil in nature, as we would have the people believe; however, it must be understood that to sacrifice a few for the good of the many is a necessary evil. It is a decision that only the strong of heart can make. For that reason, the traitor, this weak hearted person who dwells in our midst, must be found and put to death. We simply cannot afford such weakness in our pursuit of peace and tranquility in our City of Heroes."
I woke up alone.
It was neither a sound nor a touch that summoned me to consciousness. As my eyes opened only to find darkness, as my body shifted in search of an answer to my whereabouts, it occurred to me that perhaps sound, touch and the images— with all their colors, in all their complexity— had ceased to exist. I wondered, somehow without caring about the answer, if this darkness which my eyes refused to adjust to would last forever.
There is a word called "memories". Memories are the images that are in my mind, of the senses that are no longer functioning. I don't know why I remember seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting… I don't know why I remember existing before this nothingness I have awoken to.
There is another word; loss. I don't think this word can be separated from its result; sadness. These are emotions.
I hear nothing, see nothing, taste nothing. I am moving, but I think my body is a memory, just like my senses; a phantom limb I am commanding to move and, in my imagination, it obeys. All of these things are memories…
…Except for "loss". Except for "sadness". They are here with me now. With other words.
Here in this dark place, void of everything, of anything, only these words and my awareness of them exist anymore.
I wonder if this will last forever.
I can't remember if I care.
Karen Lath removed her spectacles and set them gently on her desk. Her hands shook slightly, a new ailment which, like the others, came without warning and was completely out of her control. She reached down and gripped the wheels of her chair, rolling herself back and away from the dull metal desk. She rolled up to the preservation tank and gazed at the entity of the young girl the Hero had brought into her lab just eight hours earlier. Her body had been severely injured, and Karen had been forced to remove the entity and let the girl's body die. To the right of the preservation tank the girl's brother floated suspended in one of the artificial wombs that filled Karen's creation lab. She couldn't imagine what the king would decide to do with the entity and the young boy. The boy's dark skin gleamed strangely, and Karen thought of the little Dark Kind her and her mentor had created nearly forty years ago. The ones who had, just this morning, been massacred by the king, burned alive in The Chamber. Their ashes had probably already been scraped from the chambers walls and ceiling and unceremoniously disposed of. She was sure that she would soon receive the order from the king to begin creating another generation of the Dark Kind. And this time, she would be the mentor and Paul would be trainee, so different from forty years ago. This time, she would be the one to carry the burden of knowing that what she was doing was wrong; and Paul would be the one to blindly follow the king's orders, justifying their actions by citing the kings "good of the many" speech. The same speech she had repeated to her mentor to justify the creation of the Dark Kind, the same speech that the preceding king had given to his circle.
Karen closed her eyes and listened to the steady beep of the monitors attached to the boy and the entity. She was so tired; she did not want to think of what fate awaited the two. The boy would be left to recover for at least a month, maybe two. But the entity— the girl— a body was needed for her. And if the king decided that the girl was worth keeping, that would mean that a child from The Bottoms would go missing tonight, and the entity of that child would not be saved. Only the body.
The sound of hurried footsteps jolted Karen out of her contemplation. Paul burst through the double doors of the lab and walked straight to the telecom station.
"We need a Hero." He said, not bothering to glance at Karen as he dialed. "We need a body for the entity"
Karen's heart sank, but she said nothing. She knew that it did not matter what she said. Sympathy for the Dark Kind or a child from The Bottoms was not something Paul was capable of; he was too enamored by the king, he held on too tightly to the good of the many. He gladly sacrificed the few that would ensure the future of peace and tranquility in the City of Heroes. She knew this because she had been the same way. Only the pain of regret in his later years would enable Paul to realize the destruction he had caused. When he began to see the faces of the sacrificed behind closed eyes, then he would understand what Karen now understood.
"What about the boy?" Karen asked her voice rough from disuse. She rarely had the occasion to talk, and even when she did she usually left the talking to Paul. He lived to receive praises from the king, though he was terrified of the man.
"We are to keep him until he wakes up, and then we're supposed to find out how they knew about the trigger" Paul replied. He held the receiver to his ear, his mouth turned down in annoyance. "I'm going to go down to the Heroes' station personally. I'll call you when they have left, they'll probably only send one or two. Does it matter what body we use?"
Karen shook her head, not looking at Paul but instead at the entity. How sad she felt for it—her. Karen had only ever witnessed the transplant of an entity once, and she remembered the emptiness in the creature's eyes, the strange wails that it had issued forth. How long had it taken for it to remember? A week perhaps. And when the memories had come, the creature had cried out with such horror, such despair. It hadn't understood how it could be in another body, with a different heart, and different eyes, with memories that belonged to another body. Karen did not think that it was really human after the transplant. No, that creature had been too changed by its' pain and confusion. It had been too changed by the its inability to contemplate what it meant have another's heart beat to keep the entity alive, to be forced to look through another's eyes at the memories that had meant so much and had, so abruptly, lost their meaning. It could not understand that it had been stripped of everything but its entity and shoved into another body. That twisted creature could not remember what it meant to be human. That twisted creature had been raw emotion, to exposed to live for long.
The sound of the lab door opening and shutting once again brought Karen back from her memories. This transplant was not legal—and for good reason—however under the king's orders, anything was legal. So she would perform the operation. She would allow yet another terrible thing to happen, because for her, rebelling was too late. She had grown old and weak, and had realized too late that she served an evil purpose in the City of Heroes. She was a villain, and so were the king and his Heroes. The entire system which she had dedicated her entire life and career too was an evil construct, and the peace and tranquility the king spoke of was an illusion. Karen realized in that moment that what she wanted more than anything was to watch the king and his Heroes burn. She blinked the tears from her eyes as she gazed at the entity, and then wheeled herself to the operation table to begin the preparations.
Variel Trin knelt down and examined the contents of the pouch she had picked off of a man while riding the buggy to Central. She had promised Papa that she would not steal from the people on the buggy anymore; she had promised that she would take the buggy straight to the factory, give him his lunch, and go straight back. But she hadn't been able to resist. The man had stood in front of her, pouch jingling, and talked loudly on his phone the whole ride, not even glancing down to check to ensure his pouch remained at his side. And she had resisted the urge to take it, even though she could have so easily. But then the buggy had hit a bump and the man dropped his phone. When she knelt to pick it up and return it to him, he had grabbed her wrist and twisted it painfully, snatching his phone from her.
"Keep your thieving paws off of my phone wretch. This thing cost more than your life is worth" he spat. He turned back around and continued his conversation. The people on the bus had looked alarmed at first, but then they had seen the numbers tattooed below her right eye and they had realized that she was a child from The Bottoms, and the man's response suddenly did not seem at all irrational. So when the bus came to a halt, she slipped away with his pouch.
A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she looked at the shiny coins scattered across the ground of the alleyway. Even in the dull light of the darkening evening they reflected the light in such a pretty way. Her Papa never had the big shiny coins that could buy lots of food; he was paid in dull small coins that hardly bought enough for Variel and her family to live off of. The crunch of footsteps behind her startled Variel, and she spun around in terror, picturing the Hero that the king had probably been sent to take her away. Kamenwati looked down at her instead. Her older brother towered over her as he crossed his arms and looked down at her.
"What do you have there, V?" He said, though he could clearly see the shiny coins glimmering on the ground.
Variel smiled meekly and began putting the coins back in the pouch. "Food for a month, milk for the baby, rent money." She looked from what she was doing and asked "should I go on? I found it."
Kamenwati smiled and ran his hand over his closely cropped hair, "of course you did" he answered. "Never mind, I don't care where you got it from. It looks like you hit the jackpot. Don't let Papa see" He extended his hand and Variel smiled and grabbed it. He pulled her to her feet effortlessly and they walked side by side out of the alley and towards their home.
Acorn Apartments was a dirty complex filled with the families of The Bottoms. Variel had always resented the fact that her and her brother called such a place home. Just above them on the next level of the city families lived in comfortable two and three bedroom houses. This was because those families were not as closely related to the Dark Kind, and so could not be corrupted as easily as the people from The Bottoms. Her and her family, and all the other families from The Bottoms, were dangerous because they carried a dormant gene of the Dark Kind. She remembered learning this in school. At any moment it could awaken. And if that happened, she would become vicious like a beast from The Outside and she would bite her class mates and do terrible things. Then they would have to put her in The Chamber, where she would be devoured the Dark Kind. That was when she and the other children from The Bottoms had begun to be pushed out by the children of the Upper Crust. They became frightened of the children from The Bottoms.
The teachers and even the adults of The Bottoms told Variel that king was merciful, and that was why he allowed The Bottoms to exist. He could make things much easier and just put them all down in The Chamber, but he was a merciful and compassionate king so he allowed them to live on the ground floor of the city. He even allowed the Dark Kind to live beneath the city. And even though sometimes the Dark Kind would rebel, he still refused to kill them when a generation would appear. The people of the city so admired the king and his Heroes but Variel couldn't understand why, though her parents had explained it to her countless times. The king led his people faithfully and with a just hand just as the kings before him they said. He always did what was best for the people of the city, and he was truly of a royal blood line, because a lesser man would have succumbed to the easy path of destroying all who possessed the Dark Kind's qualities. The people loved the king for not killing them. To Variel that didn't seem like a good reason to love a king.