A Band of Merry Mutants: The Actual RP [DEAD]

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A Band of Merry Mutants: The Actual RP [DEAD] Empty A Band of Merry Mutants: The Actual RP [DEAD]

Post by Princess Holly on Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:45 am

“I don’t want to leave!”

The hardest part of a day is facing it. After that, you just go through the motions. I wasn’t too sure who the person who had screamed was. If it was me, some experiment, my dream… but it didn’t matter. There was another day ahead of me, which meant I had survived the previous. Kinda good news… in a way. Just meant I had to go through a little hell so I could go to sleep and wake up to it again. Isn’t living wonderful? Sometimes, I really question my life choices.

Like always I woke up on cold, seamless, white tile. The room was freezing and I could barely see my breath because of how bright it was. The harsh lights seemed to reflect off of the white walls and floor. I always wondered why I got a “room” while others were in cells and cages. It could be a reward for helping during interrogations, but it was worse than a cell or a cage. The facility controlled the lights and the temperature, and I was always locked in. They would increase and decrease the temperature as mild punishments or leave the lights off. Cell’s didn’t have their own temperatures and were way smaller, but you could knock on a wall to get another experiment’s attention. Then you don’t feel as alone. Cages were the best. You’re usually right next to someone and they’re cages so you can see them and talk. The only perk to my room was that it used to have furniture and a bed, now it’s just a lot of empty space… which is still kinda nice. I got my furniture and stuff taken away after barricading the door on my first day having the room. Apparently it’s a privilege.

I bring myself up to a sitting position and lean against the corner. My limbs feel all heavy and I’m shivering a bit from the cold so I bring my knees up to my chest and wait for someone to arrive with food. I didn’t bite anyone yesterday so food is coming today. It only took a few more minutes until someone stepped in with food. “Hi Riley, did you snatch me anything better than meat or sludge?” I asked. Riley was one of the young scientists who basically… was… he made sure the experiments got enough nutrients and stuff so that they don’t get sick. He was actually a nice guy and didn’t deserve to work here, but I knew a lot of people like that. I liked him. Riley was only like in his late twenties with wavy light brown hair, green eyes, and tan skin. Since I refused to eat for a long time, he started bringing my meals to me himself. I told him I just couldn’t eat meat, or gross food, and that sometimes… I just… didn’t feel like it. Riley promised that he would try to bring me real food if I promised to eat what he brought. Sometimes he was unable to sneak any and most of the time not much but it was better than me starving myself.

“Sure did.” He said and showed me a slice of toast but then turned it and it was some sort of sandwich. “This is from my home, figured you deserved some sort of reward for not biting anyone in the past month. There’s Nutella in the middle.” Riley said as he tossed it to me. I caught it and took a bite.

“This is… it’s chocolate.” I told him and he just shrugged. “It’s Nutella, it’s better for you than chocolate. It does contain cocoa though… and sugar…. I’m guessing you like it?” Riley gave me one of those smirks that says, you can’t lie to me, I know I’m right.

I lowered my head trying to hide some of my face from him. “Yeah, I do like it… thanks.”

“Is that a-“

“Yes it is, now shut up and don’t tell anyone Riley. I have a reputation.” I told him and finished the sandwich. He threw some clothes at me and left. “See you later Briar, try to minimize the amount of trouble you get in.”

Next part of the morning was to really wake up by fighting your equal in a near death match, also known as training. Except it wasn’t this time, it was work together and then fight later. I guess they like mixing it up sometimes.

I was pulled along by a few guards to a new room. Outside the door was Miss Priss and the instructor. They both had matching expression of, we are emotionless yet stern angry people. I just kept the pout. I ripped my arms out of the guards’ grasps and crossed them. “I heard we’re doing some teamwork stuff today.”

Missy just glared back and I thought she wasn’t going to say anything. Then she said “That’s what it sounds like.” Sometimes I wondered why she hated me so much. It wasn’t like I couldn’t pull my own weight and then some. I actually did better than her in reading and writing. She was just a weapon, point her at the target and she takes it out. I was being taught to have a mind and manipulate others for the facility’s benefit.

“Today we’re simulating a mission that the two of you could possibly receive in the near future. You are to go through the maze, avoid the security features, and take out the target. You must complete this by working together. 756, as an assassin it is your job to take out the target at the end. 6035, you must distract those around you by acting or any means necessary. We will provide you with equipment that will aid you in your infiltration.” The overly moody instructor said. Then a scientist came over and began to give us our equipment. I got a hand gun, some spray, and my decoder for the doors. Prissy got a sprayer and guy like me but also a vest that kept her from flying out of the maze and some cool knives. I looked down at the gun in my hand and wondered what would happen if I just shot the instructor in the face. Would I finally be terminated? Would that be the last straw? Or would they just punish me, sedate me for a few years, and hire someone new? It was better to not try.

“I’m ready. Open the doors and let’s finish this game.” The instructor gave me a disapproving look but didn’t say anything. The doors opened behind him and he stepped out of the way. We both stepped inside and the doors shut quickly, at a speed I didn’t think they were capable of. The maze walls were stainless steel and the floor a dark tile. I noticed a few dark dots on the walls so I sprayed some spray. It revealed some green lasers about an inch from us. Apparently they didn’t want us to feel safe at any time.

Miss Priss went ahead of me and did pretty well. Her wings nearly hit the lasers a few times but she was doing alright overall. This was one of the few times I was glad that I was so small. It made maneuvering through this a lot easier. I noticed her foot dip down and nearly hit a laser so I reached out and grabbed it before it did. “Careful, this probably all ends when we hit one.” I whispered and could almost sense her glare. Luckily she had to keep moving forward. After awhile the lasers ended and we were in front of a door. I took out the decoder and began to connect it to the lock. The screen began flashing and I began my work. The decoder got past the first few firewalls for me and then I had to manually go through the rest and make sure to not fall for any of the traps. It took a few minutes but I got it and the door opened. On the other side were a bunch of “guards” and I guess we were supposed to stop them before they alerted someone that we were there.

Miss Priss took out the first few quickly and I ran towards the back. I’d let her take care of them as I made sure the alarm was disabled before they could activate it. This would be a simple device and the decoder could take care of it without me. All I had to do was connect it. It was connected and ready when one of the guards grabbed me. I scratched his arm and kicked his shin. He let go and I gave him a good kick in the stomach. Then I rolled out of the way as he shot a traq dart at me but I overestimated the amount of room I had and hit my head on the back wall. The guy shot another but Miss Priss redeemed herself. She shot the traq out of the air which I think was just a lucky shot for both of us and then proceeded to knock out the guy with a few punches and the butt of a gun to the head. I gave her a thumbs up and got up. Then I disconnected the decoder and attached it to the door. As it began going through the first few on its own I told her “You stand back against the wall out of sight. I’ll go in and be a distraction. When I say the word mom, then come in and take him out, alright?”

Missy said “Got it.” And moved behind the wall. I typed in the last few and the door opened. I ran inside all scared screaming “Help me! Help me! People are hurt everywhere and I don’t know why I’m here.” There were two guards on the back wall and a man behind the desk. I ran behind his desk causing him to turn around. “Who are-“ he began but I started yanking for him to get up.
“Please Mister, it’s not safe. Nothing is safe. We have to leave.” I cried at him and he stood up. “What’s wrong? What’s happened and how did you get here?” he asked me and when he was at a spot where I knew the little miss could have a clear shot I yelled out “I don’t know! I just want my mom!” Then Miss Priss came in and threw a knife nicking his shoulder. The man pretended to collapse and the guards attacked but she took them out. I always love working with her in a way. I never really have to do anything. She turned back to me and just said “Let’s get out of here.” I guess it’s too much to ask for a good job or whatever.

I disconnected my decoder from the alarm and connected it to the door. The door opened to just another hall. I guess the other part is to get out. We went through a lot more lasers, locked doors, and rooms with guards before we reached the end. I opened that door and it was our usual training room on the other side. We stepped in and the door closed behind us. Now it was time to face our instructor and receive our grade.  “You two competed the mission successfully but not as well as you could have. 756, you nearly touched a few lasers and would have if 6035 had not stopped you. I expect better balance from you yet I saw you waver several times. You need to work on that and I don’t want to see another sign of it next time. There were several times you would have had the opportunity to go in for the kill yet you did not simulate it. This needs to be corrected along with stance. You sometimes twitch before attacking. Now, 6035 there were many things wrong with your performance. The main one being your lack of participation.  You allowed 756 to take down the majority of your combatants. You have the ability to defeat them yet you allowed her to perform all of the wor-.”

“Maybe I just thought that she seemed to have things taken care of and didn’t want to get in her way? Or maybe I just didn’t feel like participa-.” The instructor slapped me hard across the face and I lost my balance a bit. Then he kicked me in the stomach and I hit the ground hard. “Do not forget your place 6035. You may be important but that does not mean you don’t have to show respect. Now 756, I wish for you two to train alone while I meet with the managers. 6035, don’t make things worse for yourself and listen to 756, she’s in charge.”

I just tried to focus on breathing and only a bit of what the instructor had said filtered through. I was in trouble, he was going to talk to the managers about me, and I had to listen to Miss Priss. She was probably enjoying this so much. She’s always hated me and never has relented after all of these years. If I were to be terminated, she’d probably smile for once. Missy would be the only one in the project and she’ll just feel so perfect. I tried to shut my eyes and let go of the fear, but it was just building. They were probably going to lock me in the dark again.

“You okay?” Missy asked breaking through the fear I had trapped myself in. I stared at her with wide eyes for a few seconds. She actually looked concerned. I began to bring myself into a sitting position. “No, I’m not. I’m leaving this place.” My situation could hardly get worse, having a beating on top of being locked up? Nothing. I was tired of this place and it had been two months since I had an attempt. Now was a good time.

I stood up and walked towards the door. There probably weren’t any guards outside, they figured Missy had things under control. “You can leave too you know? Or just go visit him at the least. Say I ran too fast and you figured I would try to rescue some mutants. Besides, you’re too important to terminate. You can get away with it too.” I told her and reached the door. She was quiet for a bit, but before I left she said “… I’ve never tried to sneak away before.” I turned back to her and almost managed a smile. “I’ve done it loads of times and I’m still here, as long as you can take a few hits… it’s worth it. Especially outside.  See you maybe.” Then I opened the door and left Missy behind. Hopefully she would grow a brain and actually use it.

There were no guards or really anyone. I closed my eyes and tried to see the map again. I was on one of the lower levels but not the lowest. I had to take the elevator but if I got off at B4 then things would be okay for a bit. I knew a lot of people on that floor and there was another elevator on that floor that would be closer to the exit if I went to the ground floor. I just had to survive several floors and hope no one needed the elevator. If I did that then I could leave, hang out for a bit, and relax until they caught me and dragged me back again. The plan wasn’t the best but I was never really good at elaborate schemes anyway.

I went to the elevator and there were no problems. Made it to B4 and was greeted with smiles and shocked faces. This was the floor made up of the really nice scientists. A lot of them did experiments with plants, but this was also the floor Riley spent a lot of time on. He had a crush on a girl who was trying to genetically design fruit that won’t spoil after a long time. Through him, practically everyone knew me. Some said hi and others ignored me because they knew what I was doing. I almost made it to the other elevator when I saw Riley. “Hey Riley? How are things with Janice?” I asked him and he gave me a shy smile and mumbled something about me being a noisy kid. “If you really must know, she keeps saying no to coffee. I told her we could go get smoothies instead but she just laughs and says she can’t. Apparently she’s nearing a breakthrough, all she can do is stay here monitoring her plants and chat if I’m willing to stay.” He ran his hand through his hair and gave an exasperated sigh, but then continued talking. “I’m guessing you’ve decided to leave again? Did my Nutella encourage you to misbehave?”

“No, it was building up in me again. I just can’t stand being here. I’m sorry if I hurt all of your feelings.” I told him and began to walk towards the elevator. I pressed the button and Riley spoke again. “Good luck Briar. I hope you find what you’re looking for.” The elevator arrived and I waved at him. “I hope you get that girl.” I said as the door shut. He was one of the few people I’d miss.
As I went up the last four floors a few scientists stepped in and others waited for the next elevator. Most were afraid to get hurt if things turned violent and others didn’t want to associate with me. For a bit I was afraid one would snitch on me but no alarms began to wail. Maybe my escape attempts were becoming normal. That’s kind of sad. Then the elevator shuddered on B1 and stopped. Must not be normal then since they had disabled the elevator on me. Now, were they going to storm in, turn off the lights and leave me, or just use knock out gas? Apparently none of the above because the door opened to no one.

I stepped outside and decided to wander for a bit. This was obviously all staged and some kind of screwed up test that I was failing with flying colors. Which meant yelling at no one and hoping someone was watching cameras was okay. “I know you guys wouldn’t let this be that easy! Just come out! I’m sick of tests… of any kind! I get it, I failed. Now just give me what I deserve so I can get this over with!” They thought they could play with me. I knew what they were doing, trying to see if I would attempt and escape if they gave me an opening. Well, I would. I would try every time because one day I would get out and all of the pain… I did deserve it in a way… just not for their reasons.

“Looks like the pup is trying to use his fangs. We should declaw you one of these days. That would be fun.” Said one of the pack as he stepped out of a room. More joined him and I felt my heart drop as I saw what he had in his hands. There was no way on this earth and anywhere else that existed, that I was putting that thing on. The head of the pack noticed what I was eyeing and smiled “Come on and be a good puppy. You need to wear this before you meet the head. You know the rules. I promise I won’t make it that tight this time. Okay?” He said giving me a giant smile and nodding his head.

“Who needs claws when I have a gun?” I said and shot three of them in the kneecaps before they could even twitch. Some of them lunged and I rolled out of the way and towards some others. Then I kicked a guy’s legs out from under him and he fell on another. I shot them both in the leg while they were down, but someone had come up to me in that time and kicked me hard in the side. My ribs still hurt from the kick earlier and I hit the ground. Then someone else stomped on my arm to make me let go of the gun. I knew I had to get up, but I also knew I wasn’t going to win. I just wanted to at least not make it easy for them.

I curled up and brought my arms in before they started kicking like they always did. The kicks were hard, they weren’t holding back. They were probably angry that I had shot a few of them. I tried to close my eyes and escape but the pain kept bringing me back. Instead I just tried to keep the memories back I didn’t need to double the pain. They kicked me for what felt like hours but was probably just a few minutes. Then the leader pulled me up to my knees by my hair and smiled down at me. “Want to be good and just put this on? I really don’t want to force you but you’re not making this easy.”

“No!” I yelled at him and brought my hands up to scratch at his arm holding me but two of the pack grabbed them. “Put the gloves on him.” The leader said and I tried scratching them but they still managed. He let go of my hair and continued “Now hold him in place and make sure his arms are on his sides.” They obeyed and I tried to move, get away, anything because I knew what was happening. The white cloth fell over my head and I knew I was panicking. My breath was coming in harsh gasps and I was shaking. The leader began to put the straps in place, and it wasn’t that tight this time like he promised but that didn’t make it any less worse.

He reached over and patted me on the head “See? It’s not that bad. Now come on.” He hoisted me over his shoulder and began to take me to the man in charge. I tried kicking for awhile and gave up. Instead I tried to even out my breathing so I’ll at least not look like a total wreck… just mostly. As we walked down the long dark hallway I tried to push down the memories of past times. They were flashing and wavering, and I just needed to grab them and shove them away. It wouldn’t help me to be reliving that. This was my power, my power.

We eventually reached a door and entered. He set me down on my feet in front of an older woman. She had gray blondeish hair up in a ponytail, bifocals, and dark eyes that were glaring down at me. The boss didn’t look that happy. I took a deep breath and tried to not shake. “I-I I’m leaving. I don’t want to be he-here anymore. It’s not like I’m going to be… a rebel or… anything. I understand what you guys are doing here.”

“Then you must understand why you’re essential to our cause. We can not lose you. You are the key to immortality. You have been here for a longer time, longer than you realize and yet you have not aged a day.” She said and knelt down in front of me. Then she reached out and cupped my face in her hands. “In a way, you’re salivation.”

Those words reminded me of a far off dream, spoken by someone else but meaning something else entirely. “I hate you. I hate you!” I screamed at her and she let go of my face. “Very well” she responded “The only way for you to truly learn why you belong here is to spend some time away.” I stared at her in shock. She was going to… going to… “But you’re going to take this device that will inform us of your location once you activate it.”

“That’s never going to happen. Why would I ever want to come back here?” If anything, I would go find her instead. She was still out there alive somewhere. Here, I was alone. “You would come back because you belong here. There is no possible way for you to live with other humans beings. You’re a child amongst them so work is not an option and according to their records, you do not exist.” She told me and I shook my head. “There are always other mutants and experiments who got out. I could be with them until I’m old enough to work under the counter.”

That got a laugh out of her and when she was done, she turned back to me smiling. “There are several reasons as to why you don’t belong with them. The most important being, you do not share their beliefs. Your beliefs are closer to ours and theirs are the polar opposite. Second, you are a wolf who has been trained as a pack member and most of those who escape hate The Packs. You will be hated and condemned for just being yourself. Lastly, your attitude. You believe yourself right and are too stubborn to concede. You have a problem with those in authority and most mutants will have you as the lowest of the low which means you will have to listen to all of them. In the end you can not function among them and do not belong. In time you will realize that I am correct and when you do, we’ll be waiting for your signal.”

I took a deep breath and decided to stop arguing. “Fine, now undo the straps and let me out of here.” This was great, freedom was right in front of me but… what would I do? The boss was right in a lot of cases and I didn’t even know where to start looking for her. She could be anywhere in the whole world and the world was a big place. I didn’t have to be alone though. I could see her key card peeking out of her pocket.

The straps were undone and I put my arms through the sleeves before stealing the card and gps thing. Then I ran out of the room. I was almost gone when I heard her tell the guards “Let him go, I know what he’s doing.” It was nice to know I was free to go. I ran back to the elevator and pressed the button for B7 which would take me to all of the other experiments except for one. He was on the last floor. I was going there to let out a girl I owed. She was stuck here because of me and I really owed it to her for another reason. I reached the floor and ran down to where most of the stable experiments were. Miss Priss might already be inside somehow but I had the card key that could open everything, even the cells and cages. I used it on the door and entered inside.

Last edited by Princess Holly on Sun May 31, 2015 7:38 pm; edited 1 time in total

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A Band of Merry Mutants: The Actual RP [DEAD] Empty Re: A Band of Merry Mutants: The Actual RP [DEAD]

Post by inventiveAdventurer on Sat Nov 08, 2014 12:19 am

Maria sat up on her bed, waking up at the usual time. 0800 hours. She saw the same white ceiling, harsh fluorescent lights, and white tile floor. All white, all boring, never changing. Only a few things ever made it bearable for her. One of those things opened her door quietly, bringing her morning meal. A fairly young man named Riley. He smiled at her with his usual friendly look. Maria knew he was trying his best to keep the pity out of his eyes, but he didn’t always succeed. “Good morning. I brought your breakfast,” he calmly said.

Maria let a slight smile play across her normally stern features, since he was one of the only people who genuinely treated her like an actual person. “Hello Riley. What is it today?” she asked.

“Protein shake.” She sighed quietly, and he added, “And a little something extra I brought.”

“What did you bring?” she queried, tilting her head to the side slightly. She straightened it again quickly, irritated with the occasional bird-like qualities she adapted. Certain behavioral aspects slipped through occasionally and made it hard for her to keep her thoughts private. The only things she really liked were the physical attributes- the wings, and the birdlike sharpness to her sight.
When Riley spoke again it snapped her mind back to the present, out of her thoughts. “I thought you’d like something like this.” He tossed a disc of bread to her, which she caught easily. A blueberry bagel.

She looked up at him after examining the food. “Bread?”

He nodded. “It’s a bagel. Sweet bread, with a few blueberries in it. Go on, try it.” She hesitantly took a bite of the bagel and chewed it. The foreign flavors danced across her tongue, making her eyes widen. It had a certain sweetness she hardly ever got to taste. She liked it. Riley chuckled. “See? I told you it would taste good.”

Maria smiled at him some, grateful for his kind gestures like that one. “Thanks. I think I’ll save the rest of it for after the shake.”

He nodded again and left the sludge-filled glass on her desk. “Remember you’ve got training this afternoon,” he added, heading for the door.

“I’ve got it, thanks.” She watched quietly as the door clicked shut behind him, closing her in once again. Maria strode across the room so she could just get the morning feeding over with. She regarded the protein shake with disgust, reluctantly picking it up. She tried to block out its pungent odor, inevitably thinking about the rancid taste and disgusting texture. Steeling herself, she pinched her nose and gulped it down as quickly as she could. The awful sensation made her shudder. She set the empty glass down on the desk again, quickly turning away from it. When she went back to her bed she picked up the bagel again and took another small bite, savoring its sweetness in contrast to the usual food she got. Eating it nibble by nibble, she tried to take in every aspect of its flavor. But eventually it was gone. The small emptiness she felt surprised her; how had she grown attached to a piece of bread? She shrugged slightly, thinking, ‘It was good bread. Very good bread.’

Checking the analog clock on the wall she noted it was 0830 hours. Almost time for training. They hadn’t told her what it would be that day; it could be anything from a math lesson to a combat death match. She was just glad they hadn’t made her terminate any experiments; she was too important to the scientists to squander their time on mundane tasks like that. She was made to be an assassin, not a soldier. So that was how they trained her.

‘Can’t be late,’ she inwardly noted as she stood up again. When she walked to the door she brushed the wrinkles out of her old pink t-shirt to the best of her ability. Maria walked out of her room and toward the training room, escorted by the usual four-man guard squad.

When the guards left her at the door of the training room her instructor walked out. “Good to see you here early. You’re cooperating with one of the other experiments today,” he said sternly.

Maria sighed. “Great. I hope he can pull his own weight.”

The instructor, Marcus, snapped, “No matter what you’re cooperating. So get ready, he’s on his way.”

When Briar walked down the hallway toward her Maria watched him with a guarded expression. The pipsqueak again? She had thought she was done dealing with him. He had the usual sour look on his face as he pulled away from his guard units. “I heard we’re doing some teamwork stuff today.”

Maria just regarded him sternly. “That’s what it sounds like.”

He just glared at her and she resisted the urge to sigh. He was always so perfect, and he got away with being rebellious as well? To her it just wasn’t fair. She only followed orders so well to protect her brother, and herself. If she didn’t cooperate they could scrap her and just start over. And she hated it. Why didn’t they terminate him? What made him so special? Whatever made him special, she always tried to be better because she wanted to stay alive. He thought he was so clever, it was just written all over his face. Maria just kept her cunning hidden until she wanted to, since she never needed to use it. She was a speed striker- it would be over before her opponent knew what happened. She didn’t need to deal with dancing around in a circle of words, and because of that she saw herself as more effective. She looked at Marcus when he started to speak. “Today we’re simulating a mission that the two of you could possibly receive in the near future. You are to go through the maze, avoid the security features, and take out the target. You must complete this by working together. 756, as an assassin it is your job to take out the target at the end.” Maria nodded. “6035, you must distract those around you by acting or any means necessary. We will provide you with equipment that will aid in your infiltration.” She watched one of the scientists give the kid his equipment and then received hers- another sprayer, a vest to keep her from flying over the whole maze, a gun with a silencer, and an array of knives. Maria slipped the blades into various hiding places- boot, pocket, and waistband- and put the gun in her other pocket. She handled it all with ease, since these were her tools.

After the grumpy kid looked at his gun he said, “I’m ready. Open the doors and let’s finish this game.” Maria huffed with annoyance, wondering how the kid got away with it all. The annoyed glare from the instructor did show that they noticed his behavior though. When the doors swung open and he moved aside she walked inside, stopping before she went very far. She knew there would be lasers somewhere. The doors snapped shut, but she didn’t react. The kid sprayed his spray a bit, revealing the green lasers. She surveyed the field quickly and muttered, “Come on,” as she moved forward. Maria was slightly grateful for the vest that kept her wings out of the laser paths as she weaved through the laser field with practiced ease, graceful and silent.

Suddenly she felt a hand grab her foot. The kid had kept her foot from hitting a laser beam. “Careful, this probably all ends when we hit one,” he whispered. Maria gave him a glare, wishing she hadn’t needed his help. She couldn’t give him a stinging remark though, since they had to get moving. They had to cooperate. Following orders, as always. When they were clear of the laser field they hit a door. The smaller of the two took out his decoder and started on the lock; Maria stood off to the side while he worked. When the door opened there was a guard detail waiting, all of which looked at the opened door. She sprung forward into the room, barely visible in the darkness. Like a shadow she attacked the guards in the immediate area, knocking them out with her bare hands before they could raise an alarm and before the other guards posted further along could see what happened.

Maria ran toward the back of the room and saw that her partner was in trouble. She smoothly drew the gun and shot at the space between them, hitting a tranquilizer dart out of the air. As she quickly knocked the guard out she saw the kid give her a thumbs up gesture; she felt a surge of pride at finally managing to turn the tables and save him instead. When he started rattling off his plan she just nodded. “Got it.”

As the kid walked into the room Maria quietly observed. She had to hand it to him, he was a good actor. When he made it to the end of his scared kid act she threw one of the knives at him, barely nicking the top of his shoulder. She missed on purpose. Of course they wouldn’t want her to kill the man, he was one of their employees and this was a training exercise.

When he fell to the ground, feigning death, the two guards attacked her, but she quickly knocked them out with simultaneous kicks. She looked at Briar and said, “Let’s get out of here.”

They worked their way out of the training maze, passing through more challenges like what they faced before. When the kid unlocked the door leading into the normal training room, Maria walked through and looked at the instructor. He was waiting there for them, with an array of surveillance screens behind him. When the door shut he watched them quietly for a moment.

“You two completed the mission successfully but not as well as you could have. 756, you nearly touched a few lasers and would have if 6035 had not stopped you. I expect better balance from you yet I saw you waver several times. You need to work on that and I don’t want to see another sign of it next time. There were several times you would have had the opportunity to go in for the kill yet you did not simulate it. This needs to be corrected along with the stance. You sometimes twitch before attacking.” Maria bowed her head, knowing she hadn’t done well enough. “Now, 6035, there were many things wrong with your performance. The main one being your lack of participation. You allowed 756 to take down the majority of your combatants. You have the ability to defeat them yet you allowed her to perform all of the wor-“

Briar interrupted him, making Maria stare at him in surprise. “Maybe I just thought that she seemed to have things taken care of and didn’t want to get in her way? Or maybe I just didn’t feel like participa-“

Marcus slapped him across the face, hard. The sound resonated through the room, making Maria wince involuntarily. After the kid stumbled back some he received a hard kick to the stomach. When he fell Maria looked away. She barely listened to the reprimand, only paying attention when her number was mentioned. She nodded silently and watched as the instructor walked out. When he was gone she hesitantly kneeled beside him. “You okay?”

Briar started sitting up. She didn’t help him, knowing it would only hurt his pride if she tried. “No, I’m not. I’m leaving this place,” he said somewhat quietly. Maria was quiet, dumbfounded. He stood and walked toward the door, saying, “You can leave too, you know? Or just go visit him at the least. Say I ran too fast and you figured I would try to rescue some mutants. Besides, you’re too important to terminate. You can get away with it too.” How did he know about her brother? And he was actually being nice to her? “…I’ve never tried to sneak away before,” she managed to say.

He looked at her again and smiled ever so faintly. “I’ve done it loads of times and I’m still here, as long as you can take a few hits…it’s worth it. Especially outside. See you maybe.” Then he was gone. She smiled a bit and headed for the air vent, hoping her mental map was accurate.

She pulled the cover free with ease and crawled inside, gradually working her way through the air vent. She followed the sound of voices until she came to a room with a table in the middle; some scientists were playing poker. The break room. There were some lab coats hanging just above the vent she was in. She braced her hands on the grate to push it free, but waited for the right moment. After a minute or two the group erupted into raucous laughter. She pushed the grate out of the wall, knowing she had ripped a few screws from the wall. She didn’t care; she just reached into a pocket and removed the access card. Slipping back into the shadows of the vent before any of them noticed, she pulled the cover softly into its place again.

Maria backed away and turned herself around at a crossroad junction to head for the elevator. She eventually arrived there and pushed that grate out the same way she removed the other one and climbed out. Realizing she was still wearing the vest that restricted her wings, she shrugged it off and gave her wings a good stretch. They extended behind her, shining slightly with reflected light. Her clothes were always wrinkled but she meticulously combed and cleaned her feathers each day. She called the elevator down and stepped inside, pressing the button for the floor above hers.

When the elevator reached its destination she stepped out and walked down a hallway. The door at the end was locked, but when she swiped the access card the firm lock released. She walked into the room confidently, ignoring the fearful cries of the other mutants. They thought she was coming to retrieve one of them for termination or experimentation, most likely. She couldn’t figure out which one was worse. Sometimes termination seemed easier to her; it was faster, and less painful. If the mutant performing it was merciful. Discarding the grim thoughts she kneeled by her brother’s cage. “Hey Leo,” she softly murmured.

He sat up and clung to the bars of his cage, looking at her with wide hopeful eyes. His golden blonde hair was too long and matted, covering his eyebrows. “Hi sis,” he quietly said, still smiling at her. It was clear just how much light they brought to each other’s worlds, how much they depended on one another.

She rested her fingers on top of his, and he held her hand through the cage wires. It was the most contact they could possibly have, under the control of the institute. “Are you doing okay?” she asked softly, not wanting to disturb any of the other experiments. Or alert the guards. Leo nodded. “Hang in there. It’ll be done soon, I’ll get you to stay with me someday. Okay?” He nodded again, a small smile playing across his face again. He made Maria smile then; he was the only person who could. “You’ll be okay, Leo. Just stay strong.”

“That’s what the message said…” he quietly replied, looking confused.

“Message? What message?”

“It said ‘Wait strong.’ Some of the others got it too.” He was a curious young boy, but he was sensitive too. Maria knew that more than anyone, from when they were still held next to each other. Maria registered it as a promise of rescue, but she didn’t dare tell her brother. If it was a cruel lie he would be crushed. She knew he wanted out, or to be with her, but she couldn’t feed him a false hope of escape. And she didn’t want him to get in trouble.

“Don’t tell anyone about that, ever,” she warned, hoping he would be smart enough to keep his mouth shut around the guards. And the scientists. He just nodded. When Maria heard the door open she made herself as small as possible, hoping that if it was a guard or scientist they wouldn’t see her. No matter what punishment they gave her, if she got to see her brother for a little while it was worth it.

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