It was late.
Terra’s head hurt and she was finding it extremely difficult to stay awake. The entire place was eerily quiet and the only light came from the hallway, filtering through.
The door opened and a guard marched in carrying a metallic chair, which he positioned in front of Terra. He turned and left, but kept the door open. Terra fought against the sleep and tried lifting her head up to look at the person now entering.
Long pale legs came into view and Terra twisted around in fear.
Petra sat down on the chair the guard had brought in.
‘I’m glad to have caught you awake,’ she said.
‘What time is it?’ Terra whispered, half dazed. There was no clock in the room, no windows or anything to guide her towards the passing hours. She hadn’t been allowed to move from the chair she was strapped in and her legs had gone numb.
‘It’s late,’ was all the Prototype said. She sat in a relaxed manner, one leg crossed over the other, those lethal hands resting across her lap.
‘Water,’ Terra begged, her eyes fluttering open and closed.
Petra watched her, amused. She didn’t move or speak, just sat in silence, her lips curling as the smile grew more teasing and evil. She seemed to be enjoying the moment.
‘I’m sorry,’ Petra finally said. ‘I didn’t quite catch that.’
‘Water,’ Terra said, trying to speak louder. Her throat was so dry it hurt to talk. Her whole body weighed so much, especially her head. It was so difficult to keep it up right. The only thing that kept her from collapsing onto the floor were the straps around her body.
‘Guard!’ Petra called out. The door opened. ‘Bring dear Terra a glass of water. We wouldn’t want the poor thing to pass out, would we?’ The door shut.
Terra was pretty sure she had dozed off, because suddenly a guard was in front of her, holding a cup of water. He brought it to her lips and she swallowed it all down eagerly, her eyes widening with pleasure as the cool liquid slid down her dry throat. It was gone too soon and she moaned for more.
‘That’ll be quite enough for now.’ Petra dismissed the guard, those blue icy eyes never leaving Terra. ‘Is there anything else you would like?’ Petra’s smile never faltered.
The room was freezing cold. Terra’s nose as well as the tips of her fingers had gone numb. Her thoughts had become a tangled mess and it was hard to keep track of everything that was happening. Her breathing had slowed and the only thing she felt was sleepiness.
‘I’m glad to see that we’re provided you with everything you need,’ Petra said.
A harsh sound brought Terra to wake up, startled. The X-Prototype had dragged her metallic chair closer. Now she was only inches away from Terra. ‘Your eyes fascinate me,’ she said. ‘I wonder whether cutting them out would grant me more power.’
Terra’s muscles tensed with fear. A wave of nausea took over, but she hadn’t eaten enough for it leave her body.
‘Don’t look at me like that,’ Petra said, glancing down at her fingernails. ‘I’m not going to do that.’ She chuckled. ‘But it would be fun, wouldn’t it? I’m not that cruel. I know you think I am, but I’m not.’ Petra tilted her head to one side. ‘Or maybe I am. Who’s to know? I’m not like you, therefore I don’t think like you or even care like you. You could all fall dead and I wouldn’t bat my eyes. You’re all just pawns to us Gods.’
‘You’re no God,’ Terra muttered.
‘Am I not?’ Petra placed her hand over her chest, looking offended. ‘I am the closes thing there is to a God.’
‘You’re just an experiment that didn’t work out,’ Terra spat. ‘Forgotten and unwanted even by your creators.’ The slap across her face brought tears to her eyes, but it helped to make the sleepiness go away a little.
‘I am invincible,’ Petra barked. ‘I was cloned from a human and modified to be perfect and indestructible. Nothing can kill me. I am immortal.’
‘And yet here you are, wasting your time with me,’ Terra said. ‘Immortality must be rather dull.’
Petra licked her teeth. ‘You speak a lot. That’s something that’s always annoyed me about you.’ She stood from her chair and began to pace around the tight space. ‘It must be difficult for you…’ Petra’s cold eyes met Terra’s. ‘You’ve been naughty. You know it’s illegal to have feelings for a cyborg, right? Oh, don’t go giving me that look. You really thought I wouldn’t find out?’ Petra clucked her tongue. ’The Nation has clear rules about such things.’
Terra didn’t like where this conversation was headed.
‘I can help you. I can change this tiny problem of yours.’
‘I don’t want your help.’
‘But you’ll receive it, anyway.’
The door to the room opened. Terra expected a guard to march inside, but instead Petra’s twin brother arrived. Nothing good ever came from Viktor visiting. He could mess with people’s minds and he’d spent the last few days torturing Terra.
Petra’s face softened as soon as she turned towards her brother. Those terribly cruel eyes filled with warmth and love at the sight of the X-Prototype. ‘Brother, Terra needs our help.’ Her voice was teasing, clearly enjoying the suffering she was causing her victim by inflicting fear.
‘Our dear little friend here has a crush on a boy,’ Petra said. ‘I think we can do something for the poor girl, right?’ Viktor nodded. He never spoke Terra had wondered many times whether he had a tongue, but surely he did. He was an X-Prototype.
‘No!’ Terra said, fighting against the straps. She wouldn’t let them bully her any longer. She was stronger than this. Viktor had already messed with her mind and she wasn’t going to let him do it again. Ever.
‘You will learn your place,’ Petra said. ‘And your place in this Nation is to be an obedient human. And as the law says, humans cannot love cyborgs.’ Petra’s eyes sharpened. ‘You will forget this boy. And we’ll see whether this little crush is real or not.’
‘I won’t forget him.’
‘You will.’ Petra stepped away to let her brother take over. The sight of Viktor’s face inching closer made Terra cry out, her body tight with fear. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she screamed, pleading for someone to save her.
‘Please,’ she begged. ‘Please, don’t do this!’
‘Don’t waste your breath,’ Petra said, leaning against the wall. ‘And stop crying. In a few minutes you won’t even remember why you doing such a grotesque thing.’
‘Why are you doing this?’
‘I’m helping you, Terra.’ Petra crossed her arms against her chest. ‘Love is pain. I’ll take it away. You won’t suffer anymore.’
Viktor’s long slender finger reached up and touched Terra’s forehead. She felt the need to bite him, but as soon as the tip of his finger pressed against her skin, her body relaxed, no strength left to fight.
She fought against the tendrils cruising through her mind, searching for the memories she shared with Kalem. She felt them stroking them, wrapping themselves around them and pulling them away. And slowly, they began to vanish.
Their first encounter, the dreams, the journey to No Man’s Land, the nights they had shared a bed together, the first time they had kissed…
Gone. Within seconds.
Terra’s body shut down as the memories were taken from her forever.
Even though everyone thought Kalem spent every single minute of the day hidden down dark alleys, it wasn’t true. He did go home to shower, change and eat. He just chose to do it when he knew his mother wasn’t around to catch him. He loved her, but sometimes Camille could be a bit too much to handle.
Climbing the pipes down one side of his battered home was an easy task and he managed to get onto the roof, as stealthily as a cat. Carefully, he opened the small window that led to the attic and climbed through. He made it into his room triumphantly, until the door slammed shut behind him and he spun around. His mother stood there, arching her eyebrows at him.
‘You do realise that no matter how much of a ninja you think you are your mother is always going to know best,’ she said.
Kalem grunted as he searched for clean clothes.
‘I’m surprised to see you here,’ she added. Her tone of voice sounded hopeful.
‘I’m leaving as soon I get some things.’
‘How about you come downstairs and eat something first?’ She gestured towards the door, smiling from ear to ear.
‘That way I can tell you about my plan to save Terra.’
Kalem stared at his mother. He knew she wouldn’t trick him in such a vile way, so he was definitely intrigued about what she had to offer. And food helped. A lot.
Camille sighed and grabbed a black T-shirt from the top draw of Kalem’s cupboard, then threw it at him. ‘I promise you’re going to want to hear this out,’ she said as Kalem grunted and quickly changed. ‘Come on. I don’t have all bloody day.’ She grabbed the doorknob and thrust the door open.
Reluctantly, he followed his mother down into the basement where the kitchen was. His silver eyes widened at the sight of the people sitting inside, especially on one particular cyborg with yellow teeth and a mechanical eye.
Camille ignored everyone as she marched directly towards the pot and began stirring whatever was inside. Kalem followed her, unable to keep his attention off of all the cyborgs crammed inside.
‘What did you do?’ he whispered in her ear.
Camille shrugged, looking pleased with herself. ‘You want her back, right?’
‘Of course I do.’ He nodded. ‘But why do they want her back?’ He gestured with his head at everyone else.
‘We knew her before you did, kid,’ Hooky said. The cyborg looked comfortable on one of the wooden chairs, smoking a cigar that let a blue smoke float up into the ceiling. Camille had to be desperate to let him smoke inside the kitchen. She hated such a thing.
‘What do you want in return?’ Kalem asked. He ignored his mother’s look of disapproval, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t there to make friends. This was strictly business. His number one priority was Terra.
‘We want her back home, safe,’ Hooky said.
Kalem nodded. He could tell Hooky was being truthful. And even if he wasn’t, he didn’t care. They needed all the help they could get. He’d worry about consequences later.
‘We have men and women willing to do anything to piss the government off,’ Hooky explained.
Kalem leaned against the counter. The kitchen was a lovely space full of plants, lamps of different shapes and sizes and dozens of pots and pans. He could remember Terra’s first glance inside the room and the way her face had brightened. Those mismatched eyes of hers would shine with delight at the contact of her hands against the plants. She would also smell them when she thought no one could see her.
’So what’s the plan?’ Kalem asked, crossing his robotic arms against his chest, staring at each and every one of the cyborgs in the room. ‘We break into the Governments’ Headquarters and snatch Terra back from under their noses?’
Camille’s mischievous smile reached her eyes. ‘That’s precisely what we intend on doing.’