Carter eyed the three massive structures that stood before him. They were imposing buildings, with jagged edges and small rectangular windows that poked through massive concrete pillars which came down like frozen waterfalls off the flat roofs the research centres shared. Last night he had been trapped in the central one, the largest of the three rising at least 25 stories tall. Carter was not sure how thick or wide the grey concrete structure was, but he knew it was massive.
It was noon, and while a cold spring morning had caused Carter to dress warmly, he was beginning to regret that decision as the sun beat down on him. Concluding he no longer wanted to be baked by the sun sitting in his car, he opened the door, stripped off his jacket and threw it back into the driver's seat. Finally, after a night and a morning spent contemplating his decision, Carter decided to take action. With feigned confidence he made his way towards the central structure, its authoritarian presence weighing heavily on the nervous man who approached it. The same nervous man who was trying to mix in with a crowd of scientists returning from lunch.
The guards scanned and accepted Carter's company ID card with little question. While he had never been the one to shoplift, Carter had seen his friends do it. He knew that by appearing normal, by walking confidently in broad daylight, one could go far further than one trying to hide. This was Carter's plan. Walk in normally, walk out normally. No sneaking about, hiding in the ventilation shafts like a bad spy.
After a few moments of wandering, trying his best to retrace his steps from last night, Carter was struck with a terrible realization. He actually had no idea where the woman or her daughter were being held. At first he planned to simply ask one of the many workers in the halls going about their business. Approaching a tall, dark haired man in a lab coat, Carter realized that was a terrible plan and turned around.
Carter was disgusted with himself yet again. After all of this, he had failed to save that little girl. His heart dropped as he began to consider that perhaps he had one chance, one chance to prove himself to be a good person, and he had missed it. Sulking, he made his way back towards the exit.
"Identification please," at first Carter had thought the voice was a monotone computer, instead it was one of the security officers, standing less than a meter behind him.
"What?" Carter asked. He could feel his confidence vanish. He swore his legs were shaking.
"Your ID card," the officer replied, this time with some aggression. Immediately, Carter began fumbling through his pockets for an ID card. As he went to show it to the guard he swiped it out of Carter's sweaty hands.
"Carter Gail..." the security guard continued, "You aren't supposed to be here." The man began to pull out a stun gun. Carter cowered and shut his eyes. 'This is just', he thought to himself, 'Getting beaten up and losing my job, seems fair'.
"Stop!" Carter had to pry his eyes open to see the man who came up from behind the security guard. He recognized him as the doctor from earlier. Carter hadn't realized the dark haired man knew he was there, "Why are you doing to my associate?"
"Doctor Jamestown!" Immediately, the guard stopped and put away his weapon, "I didn't know, I..."
"Don't make excuses," Jamestown walked over to Carter and pat him on the shoulder. "Are you okay sir?" Carter nodded, "Geeze, do you guys ever stop to think before you turn to those tazers?" He snatched Carter's ID card out of the security guards hand and returned it to Carter. He waved the security guard off who walked away ashamed. The two of them made their way to an elevator. Carter made a move to once again exit but the dark haired man held him back, "We have to talk first. Now shut up and sit tight."
The two stood in silence as they waited for door to open. Once inside, Jamestown turned to Carter with a hand outstretched "Bradley Jamestown, you?" The elevator shook as it began to go up.
"Carter, Carter Gail," Carter shook his hand, "Why'd you save me?"
"Saved ya? Ha! Certainly not. Johnny may have shaken you up, but he wouldn't have killed you." Jamestown smiled, stroking his dark beard.
"Well, why did you help me then?" Carter checked the level they were headed to. They were headed to level 9.
Jamestown chuckled, "Well, it's too soon to say I've helped you." He patted Carter on the shoulder, nearly knocking him over, "Of course, maybe you won't mind either."
"Mind what?" Carter's anxiety was renewed. He feared now that he was doomed to be a test subject like that woman, or end up as her target practice.
"We get out here." The elevator stopped, and they entered a long hallway much like the ones below. They walked for a few feet and stopped at door 908. "Come on in."
The room seemed similar to any other hospital room. A large bed that appeared as if it were pulled from the set of a science fiction film dominated the left side of the room. On the far side were large windows that looked over a forest that seemed to go on endlessly. Before the windows was a rocking chair, which an imposing man sat in. From his weathered face, muscular physique and perfect posture, Carter assumed he had spent some time in the military. On the bed was the woman from last night breast feeding a dark haired, fragile infant. Seeing Carter she looked away ashamed.
"Who's he?" said the man on the chair, paying most of his attention to the child.
"A friend," Jamestown looked at Carter, "Right?"
It took a few moments for Carter to realize they were referring to him. "Yes, a friend."
The woman mumbled something and the man in the chair leaned in to listen. He cocked an eyebrow and looked up at Carter. He stood up, reaching almost seven feet into the air. The man's eyes scanned over Carter, he could feel the tall man's eyes scanning every wrinkle on his face. "A friend, or a 'friend'?"
"He'll help us complete the plan," Jamestown turned and looked at Carter in the eyes, as if he were a child judging whether or not he should hand in a test or read over it again, "Yes, I'm sure he will."
Carter, brow cocked, was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with a situation he was already uncertain about, "Wait, what plan?"
"You're going to help us save a child's life, that's what." Jamestown walked over to the woman on the bed and ran his hands through her dainty hair, "He's going to save your child's life."
The woman looked up at Jamestown and then finally looked at Carter. He froze as the woman now began to analyze him. It was likely she had never really had a good look at Carter, the dark of the facility last night would have made it difficult for her to do so, especially in the state she was in.
"Which one?" she asked, her voice unsettled and hoarse. Hearing the question, Carter immediately wished he could say all of them.
After some thought, Jamestown declared, quietly to not upset the child which was beginning to fall asleep, "Virginia." He took a deep breath, "Yes. Carter, your job will be to extract Virgina."
"Virgina? Why her?" The tall man seemed angered by this and stormed over to Carter on the other side of the bed.
"Because she's the only one who can end this madness!" Jamestown shouted.
"Shut up, the two of you!" the woman yelled. The dark haired child began to cry and the two did so.
Jamestown composed himself, inhaled deeply and began to pace thinking. After some time he finally spoke, "Carter, have you ever heard of the Reptilian Complex?"
Carter rubbed his hands together, warming them and sighed, "No, can't say I have."
"The Reptilian Complex comes from an American neuroscientist by the name of Paul Maclean. Back in the 90's he published a book called 'The Triune Brain in Evolution' which was meant to discuss the evolution of the brain in vertebrates. Now, in his theory he discussed the concept of a 'reptilian complex', the sort of basic core that brains are based around. He said the reptilian core controlled things like aggression and dominance. Now above that was the paleomammalian complex and the neomammalian complex that added emotions, abstract thinking and all of that good stuff." Jamestown paused to ensure the bewildered crowd had followed what he said, "Now, for the most part, this is the basis for Affective Neuroscience, the study of emotion. My job at this facility was to work towards creating a generation of perfect little soldiers who were clinical sociopaths and psychopaths by design. Well, I wouldn't call that the perfect soldier, but according to some number crunchers and some investors who aren't too educated in the psychology of soldiers, it is."
"Fine and dandy, but what's your point, doc?" the tall man was clearly still a bit flustered from the earlier confrontation and was readying himself to go again.
Jamestown murmured something under his breath and continued, "Chris, if you don't let me finish the introduction you won't follow the story."
"Never mind." Jamestown continued, "Now, starting with Venessa's first child, Alex, we began to experiment. Probably the reason he's still a bit of a nutcase and suicidal. At sixteen, his morality is and personality are set. He can't be saved and he'll be more a danger to himself than anything. With Benji we were a bit better, well, at making him worse. At fourteen he's a lost cause. Same with Caprice. That left Derryl and Virginia."
"Why not Derryl then?" Chris said sitting down again. For now the situation was defused. Carter hadn't realized it, but at some point the dark haired child had stopped crying, too.
"That goes back to why I discussed the Reptilian Complex," Jamestown gave a disappointed sigh, "Before Derryl was born and we were messing about with his genes, I hadn't thought of my plan yet. Hence, no matter what our friend Carter does to tell Derryl right from wrong, Derryl will have a difficult time controlling his... urges."
"What makes Virigina different?" Carter finally spoke up. He didn't want the child he was bringing into his house to stab him the moment they could hold a knife.
"I 'screwed up' on Virigina." Jamestown smiled, almost chuckling with pride, "Now, right and wrong are 'learned' traits. Effectively, we learn them through socialization. So, let's say you were always told that murder was fine. We saw our parents and friends do it, and we saw our heroes on TV do it too. Well, we would commit murder as well and wouldn't think anything special of it. With these children, our aim- or at least the task given to us- was not to somehow give them this right and wrong at birth, but to remove that guilt we feel when we commit wrong acts. To tap into that reptilian complex and allow them to act without inhibitions. With Virginia I strengthened those inhibitions. It'll be very easy to teach that girl how you want her to act." Jamestown patted Carter on the shoulder, "And you'll teach her to be a good little girl who will one day use her powers to tear down this corporation and the careers of every god-forsaken investor, banker and politician who helps support it."
"Brilliant," Chris smiled.
"What about her?" Vanessa cradled the child in her arms which was now sound asleep. "Why can't you save her?"
"Laurence?" Jamestown stroked his beard, "Well, after Virginia turned out to be the exact opposite of what the company wanted, they watched over us a lot more carefully on Laurence. While we didn't remove anymore of her brains tendency to follow societal cultural norms, lest she go on a bloody rampage in this building the moment she doesn't get her way, we instead strengthened the Reptilian Core; something we hadn't considered before. Laurence is destined to be a high functioning sociopath, or at least something very unpleasant. What's worse it that there isn't a thing Carter could do to avoid that."
Laurence jumped off the streetcar and ran across to Port Station. Despite being surrounded by older residential buildings, small convenience stores and restaurants that made much of the downtown area she felt unusually alone. The Canadian side of the inlet was never as busy as the American one, especially on a Tuesday night. Reaching the station, she darted inside, leaving of a sharp late autumn wind. Laurence flashed a pass at a scanner before navigating herself and her viola bag through the metro gate. Other than the odd drunk party-goer and worker getting off a late shift, the station was, for the most part, empty.
Laurence managed to find a car to herself when the train arrived. The train went through a tunnel under the inlet and with the car silent, every sound it made was amplified by the echo. After nestling herself comfortable in the back corner of the car, she leaned back and smiled. Laurence could hardly contain her excitement. It had been easy enough to find where Marissa was being held, or at least, figure out where to look. The plate on the van she had been dragged into was a commercial Washington State plate. A simple search on the state registry sight had found Laurence the business that owned it. After that, she just had to find the address. Finding out the company was based in the old harbour on the American side in Franklinport wasn't surprising. The place was infamous for being home to gangs. Laurence chuckled, 'finally a place where I can see what I can do.'
After arriving in Franklinport, the train waited with its doors closed as a group of state soldiers checked through every car. Laurence waited patiently as they made their way towards her car. She could remember a lot of people being angry when the Americans and Canadians agreed to open the border, the US still reserved the right to check Canadians for passports when the Canadian government didn't. The reason they did so was obvious, it was justification for the police to conduct random searches, even on Americans. When someone wasn't carrying an ID they could be imprisoned.
'Brilliant money grab by a country with private prisons.'
When the soldiers finally reached her end of the train, Laurence showed them her passport and was let out without question. Leaving the underground station, she was immediately hit by the brightness. From the Canadian side of the city, Franklinport always seemed to glow, but Laurence often forgot just how bright the city was when in it.
After a quick bus ride, Laurence found herself at the old port, the heart of Franklinport until the 1930's. Its old cobblestone roads and decaying brick buildings seemed on the verge of being pressed into the Pacific Ocean by the new city's massive glass and steel skyscrapers that reached into infinity. The powerful lights pressed long shadows on the decrepit buildings of the old port. Laurence began to play with the long bangs running over the right side of her face. A tenseness seemed to hold over the area; its windows held together by tape and rotting wooden planks, on the verge of falling apart. She pressed forwards to the abandoned docks, trying her best not to stand out.
After a half hour of walking and scaring off a few men with some flashy 'witchcraft', Laurence found herself at the abandoned marina. Most of the boats sat rotting on the coast, having gone perhaps decades without being in the water. A few boats did float, most of them being makeshift houses. The gate that once divided the marina from the rest of the old port was rusted with many holes; most of the gates were open as well. Carefully, Laurence slipped inside. Crates and vacant buildings dotted the area. Cautiously, Laurence ran up to a smaller building which was covered with rained out fliers. She ducked into the opening where the door had once been and opened her viola case. Inside was a kitchen knife she had been sharpening before sneaking out of her room.
The only building in the abandoned marina that had lights became Laurence's target. It seemed to be the building from which the marina had originally been administered. It was a larger building that stood on the very edge of the ocean. Laurence was extremely careful in her approach, checking for guards that may be on the crates or abandoned boats waiting to pounce.
Once a few meters away from the door, Laurence built a small charge of electricity in her arm and aimed at a the camera looking at the entrance. With a small burst of blue and purple the camera caught fire before quickly burning out. She beamed excitedly at her success.
Laurence pressed up to the door and pulled a bobby pin out of her hair. After a few moments of work she easily opened the old rusted lock and was inside. Scanning the entrance she saw a secretarial desk and a hall that went on for five or so meters in each direction. On the right side were bathrooms, the left side seemed to go on after taking a right turn at the hall's end. With no one in sight, Laurence ran up to the secretarial desk and began rummaging through its drawers for information. After passing through a few old log books, pamphlets for old attractions and boating tours from the 1980's she found a map.
'If I were going to kidnap a teenage girl and bring her to my ultra sketchy back alley hide out, where would I hold her?'
The building had a dining area on the back end which had an over view of the ocean. The cooking area was downstairs, the next two levels up were offices for the marina and the various harbour cruises and tours that were operated from the area. Laurence sat in the chair at the desk and leaned back, considering her options. It would be too dangerous to run around until she ran into Marissa. Judging from the location she was being held at Laurence assumed an organized group was holding her, not a deranged individual.
'Why was no one guarding the door?"
The enemies' lack of man power gave Laurence the mental breakthrough she needed.
'If they didn't have enough manpower to guard all of the entrances, then they were likely going to try and keep most of their force around a single position.'
Laurence then realized that left them with only one place to hide: around the generator room. With a smug smile and confident stride, Laurence made her way to the stairway to the kitchen. She headed left down the hall, destroying the odd camera she saw along the way.
She froze immediately upon hearing something spoken in a foreign language. She darted up to the corner where the hall took a sharp 90 degree turn towards the dining area. She saw two men, both in wind breakers bearing an unidentifiable logo. More importantly, they had guns with flashlights attached to them. Laurence immediately fell back to the other side of the corner. She could feel her heart beating. In fact, she could hear it and was quite worried that the approaching patrol could hear it too. Then she remembered why she came and smiled. She could beat these guys, easily.
The other man spoke, his voice deeper, his words sounding a bit different. Laurence made out a few Cantonese words, but by no means knew what they meant. He spoke again, this time in English, "Come on out, we know you're there. How many times do we have to tell you bums to stay out?" Laurence was surprised, the man's accent resembled that of a man from Chicago, not Hong Kong.
Laurence rolled around the corner and landed on her knees. She acted quickly, destroying the cameras behind the men and launching the glass from the lenses into them. They both shouted in agony falling over in pain. Before they could react, Laurence then, launched her knife at them, using a light throw to get it airborne and using her mind to guide it the rest of the way. With accuracy that surprised even her, she managed to lodge it into the neck of one of them, silencing him.
"Fuck you!" the other one pulled out his gun and fired. Laurence cringed, assuming the worst. After emptying his magazine, the man stared at Laurence in astonishment, "How the hell?"
Laurence laughed with relief, equally surprised at her survival.
'If I can block bullets, screw this stealth thing!'
Laurence charged at the man as he scrambled to reload his handgun. With the flick of her wrist, the knife removed itself from the first man she had killed and reached her left hand. The man tried to knock Laurence away with his empty handgun, but with a quick manoeuvre she pushed it away and attacked. The man managed to block the knife with his other hand and threw Laurence over into the pool of blood left from his dead ally.
"Psycho-bitch!" Laurence scrambled to find her footing but slipped on the blood. She felt a sting in her left arm but ignored it. She rolled over to face her attacker. The man, now armed with a piece of glass that had been lodged in his back jumped on Laurence. He easily overpowered her and wrestled her knife out of her hand. Laurence screamed. Suddenly, the man was hurled into the air, hitting the wall with such force that the room shook. He hit the floor with an audible thud.
Realizing the man would not be getting up soon. Laurence composed herself. She checked her left arm. A large gash went along it and much of her left sleeve was wet with blood. She winced in pain as she moved her arm. Once sure it wasn't broken, she rose to her feet. Her attacker was doing far worse, his body contorted, a cracked, blood stained bone poking out his arm. He moaned, laying on the ground face first.
Laurence grinned wickedly, "Let me help you with that." She kicked the exposed bone. The man shouted in pain, enticing Laurence. She once again summoned her knife to her left hand. She felt along his back, examining where his ribs were. She took aim at where she assumed his heart would be, "Now to see how much blood comes out when..."
The sound of approaching footsteps, many of them, forced Laurence to leave the scene. She darted into the bathrooms. After a few moments of frustrated pacing, she sat down on a wooden chair in the corner of the bathroom to calm herself. It probably had been a very nice bathroom, from what Laurence could see. Its sinks seemed artistically crafted with fancy gold finishing, but there was no obvious piping. There were vases for flowers on each of them, but many more lay on the ground broken. The tiles on the floor were also beautiful glass pieces, but many were cracked or missing. The chair she sat on had enough fancy swoops and curves that it could have come from Buckingham Palace, but its paint was peeling and wood had been chipped away.
More footsteps and shouting. Laurence stopped appreciating the art and began looking for an exit.
'Should have made a beeline for the door.'
Laurence then picked out a window. It was small, but she was certain she could make it through. She unlocked it and began trying to force it open. It wasn't working, the sliding mechanism rusted shut. With the voices getting louder, the footsteps closer, she turned to the chair. Aiming one of the feet at the centre of the window, she charged. To her surprise, it smashed in the first run. Quickly, she cleared away the remaining glass, dropped the chair and climbed out and jumped into the murky water below.
There she waited a few seconds, certain her escape route hadn't gone unnoticed. She swam as far as she could towards the back side of the building underwater and then surfaced. Using her viola case to float, she took a moment to reassess her plan. "Less guards inside, but they'll be alert" she mumbled to herself. Spotting a ladder , she climbed onto the patio on the ocean side of the building. It was gated from the rest of the marina and was mostly empty short of a few broken plastic chairs and fabricless sun umbrella. The wall that divided the building restaurant from the patio was large, glass and curved. A few of the large panes that made the window wall were missing, and Laurence easily climbed back inside. There before her, in the centre of the room was a stairway, one going to a second level of the restaurant, the other to the basement.
'Things might finally be coming back together.'
At the end of the stairs was a short landing divided from the rest of the restaurant by swinging doors. Laurence quickly peeked inside. There were four men in the kitchen. Luckily, lots of pots, pans, knives ladles and other cooking utensils seemed to be strewn across the room.
Laurence fixed her wet hair which was beginning to stick to her face. Happy with her stroke of good fortune, she tried moving one of the many metal objects on the other side of the door. She soon realized she was having no effect.
She nudged the door open slightly, just enough to fit her hand through. The guards didn't seem to notice. Taking advantage of this, she launched every metal object she could in the air and smashed them into the guards. It was sloppy, with knives going handle first and some items missing, but in a matter of seconds they all were either dead or unconscious. Quickly, Laurence darted through the room to a door on the other side.
"What the..." the room was filled with, what Laurence saw to be, twenty, unconscious people stripped and chained to walls. After a quick check they seemed to be her age or younger, the youngest being no older than twelve. Laurence moved quickly, not wanting the men outside to realize the breach.
The darkness of the room made it a difficult process. Laurence tried making a light with her right hand but could achieve little more than a few blue sparks. Finally, she tripped on a long legged girl. Looking up at her, she made out Marissa. Laurence remembered her as being tall blonde and pretty, but her cheeks were now sunken, her ribs were visible, and her legs seemed too thin to hold the fragile frame together. She was unconscious but alive, each breath loud and seemingly painful.
Laurence ran back into the kitchen and checked the pockets of the men there. Not a single one of them had one. Laurence checked her hair for her bobby pin, but realized she had dropped it upstairs. With no other option, she picked up one of the men's handguns and ran back into the room.
With a deep breath, Laurence fired at the lock. She was nearly knocked over by the force of the weapon, but her plan worked. The single lock keeping Marissa chained to the wall exploded.
"Please, don't hurt me anymore!" The girl screamed, cowering.
"Marissa, I'm here to bust you out of this joint," Laurence took off her sweater and gave it to the girl. At first she didn't seem to know what to do with it, but then quickly put it on.
"Really?" she replied, tears of joy beginning to stream down her face.
"Yeah," Laurence immediately began to question her chivalric gesture. She was cold in only her sports bra and tights. "Let's move quick, I'm freezing." The lights turned on, violently illuminating the white room. Laurence froze. She aimed her stolen hand gun at the door, "Stay behind me."
A group of five entered the room, "Well done, little girl, straight up fantastic work!" The leader was a tall east Asian man in a suit and dark glasses. He was a younger man who Laurence pictured as a someone you would see working for a bank on wall-street."The company could really use talented go-getters like you." His voice was that of a salesman who seemed determined to sell an expensive car to Laurence.
"Thanks," Laurence replied, rather confused by the show of admiration.
"Now I think you can understand that we sort of have a problem here." He continued, "Why don't you tell me who sent you here and we can work from there."
Laurence smiled, "I came on my own."
The man rubbed his eyes, "Come on, let's be honest with each other. I'll pay you handsomely."
"I'm being honest. I came to rescue a friend." Laurence could feel she was shivering and wasn't sure if she was scared that a man was being this calm with a gun pointed at him or if she was just cold. "Just step aside and I'll pretend I saw nothing."
"Can't do that, hon," the man replied, "I'm going to ask you only one more time," the man spoke more aggressively, "Who the fuck sent you?"
Laurence at first jumped, but continued to aim her gun defiantly, "I'm here alone."
"Damn, you're loyal," he chuckled, "Kill 'er then."
The men opened fire. Once again, the bullets failed to hit Laurence or Marissa who was cowering behind her. Laurence felt her legs become weak, as if she had just completed a long run, but used the confusion to attack none the less. She launched her gun at one of the men, and used her knife on another. She then charged forward, corralling her knife into her left hand. She went to attack the man in the suit but her arm felt heavy and wouldn't move. The man in the suit used the opportunity to hit her face with the handle of his revolver.
The world seemed cloudy and was spinning. Laurence tried to find her feet but couldn't locate them. Her knife wasn't there, and she couldn't seem to tell where her left arm was. The only part of Laurence's body that seemed to be where it should have been was her right arm. She soon realized she was on the ground, and a red liquid was dripping into her eyes.
"Too bad, you would have made an excellent addition to our organization." Laurence rolled over and saw the barrel of a gun aimed squarely at her face. Before the man in the suit could fire, Laurence willed the gun to explode, and it did. The man screamed with pain, his hand reduced to bloody meat. After taking a few steps back, he fell over and rolled on the ground in pain. The remaining two men routed, running away.
With the world beginning to settle, Laurence shakily rose to her feet. She wiped some blood away from her eyes so she could see again. She picked up her knife and with as much force as she could manage, drove it into the mans neck. The screaming stopped, but her ears still rang.
Laurence stood up and turned to Marissa. She tried to speak but coughed up blood in the process. She spat out some blood and felt a chipped tooth as well. Checking her mouth was clear, she tried again "Marissa, we should go." The scared girl shook her head no, "Come on, I don't want to wait until more come around." Marissa curled into a ball and began to cry. "If you want to spend the rest of your life blowing guys in Thailand that's on you."
"I can't walk!" Marissa screamed, "They broke my legs."
"Perfect," Laurence mumbled, helping Marissa to her feet. She could barely stand herself but managed to help Marissa up the stairs and out the building. The two stood on a street corner that divided the abandoned marina from the rest of the old port, waiting for a cab. Laurence struggled to stay awake, blood still dripping down her left arm, creating a small pool on the street corner, mixing with water and oil. She was happy to realize her head was no longer bleeding, but knew that something was still wrong as the lights of Franklinport began to dance in front of her, the sky and the ground bleeding into one.
When the cab arrived, Laurence woke Marissa so she could give the driver her address.
"Rough night at the club?" the cab driver joked, adjusting a mirror.
"Yeah." Laurence replied sheepishly, dropping her viola case in the trunk.
Once safely inside, Laurence stopped fighting to stay awake, having fought enough for one evening.