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Chapter 5: Slight Imperfections
Replication Lab B was a sterile, lightly furnished chamber near the heart of Netherstorm, staffed by three Peon Elites who rarely left its boundaries. Like the laboratory of the Ironstorm Complex before it, Lab B consisted only of some iron chairs and desks, several equipment storage lockers, a polished countertop overflown with scrawled notes and spreadsheets, and at the far end, the complex mechanism used to form entirely new organisms from small blood samples.
It was this mechanism that the directing Peon Elite kept glancing anxiously at, in between staring at the entrance and waiting for her commander to arrive. What particularly distressed her was the fluid-filled glass tank fixed in the center of the machinery, which should have been drained and opened many hours prior.
Rather than the bright crimson of fresh blood, the liquid in this tank was clear and slightly misted, with flecks of deep blue and minuscule streams of pinkish-red floating throughout. The labyrinthine circuitry below the tank whined incessantly, and panels of lights would flash and spark rapidly before fading away again. As the Peon Elite's gaze fell on the tank once more, the strange fluid churned around, briefly exposing something large and gray curled up inside.
"What the HELL is this?!"
All three Peon Elites reeled back, desperately saluting as their eyes fell upon Sben's wraithlike form. The lights in the masked man's eyes flared to fill half the room, nearly blinding the nearest Elite as the former focused on the bubbling tank.
The directing Peon Elite hurried to answer, maintaining a calm tone in contrast to her terror. "Our attempt at the 'Littlewood' clone, sir. But as I said, there were complications in the process."
Sben's lights narrowed to barely-visible pinpricks. "I certainly hope said complications won't delay our operation... Otherwise, I might have to string your spinal cords up in Lab A as a motivational tool."
"They... they shouldn't, sir." The Elite indicated a stack of papers on the counter. "Not if our hypotheses are proven-"
"Where's the kid?"
The Elite, still on her train of scientific thought, was taken aback by her commander's sudden query. "Wh- What was that, sir?"
Sben's voice lowered to an icy whisper. "The kid. Martyn. You said you're still producing 'Littlewood', so if the kid's not in his cell, and he's not in here getting sampled, I want to know just where in this Notchforsaken hole he would be..."
Martyn Littlewood was cold.
He could barely move, and he was surrounded by darkness, but the cold was what terrified him the most. He was in the hottest place imaginable, where the very earth outside this complex could be lit aflame with a single ember, and he felt like he was buried in snow.
This is what death feels like.
He pushed the thought to the back of his mind, trying to focus on making sense of his surroundings, but as fears are wont to do, it rose up again. This time, it carried with it something he had told Lewis after their friend Duncan had been murdered in the Project Ironskies attack.
Everyone's time comes eventually. At least he died fighting, protecting the people he loved... I don't know if every one of us is going to luck out like that.
Refusing to give in, Martyn waited for the surge of adrenaline that would always come in times of danger. If he was lucky, he would be able to use it to free himself from wherever he was entombed.
The surge never came.
Death is at the door. It's rude to keep him waiting.
There was a gentle rustling noise, and as light suddenly filled his murky vision, Martyn found himself staring into the ash-black gas mask of Death himself.
"What. Happened. Here?"
Sben effortlessly ripped Martyn's pale, emaciated body from the locker, laying him flat on a nearby desk. Checking the young man's pulse, he found it to be thready and wildly inconsistent.
The directing Peon Elite stared at him, fighting to keep calm and maintain control of the situation; she knew that many of the resurrected Peons who walked these halls had been violently slain by Sben himself. "Well, sir, I'd request that you bring your attention back to the tank. That's the crux of this whole issue."
She went on in her mentally-rehearsed explanation as her commander grudgingly obliged. "We started off, as you well know, with the blood sample taken while Mr. Littlewood was unconscious. Upon trying to extrapolate and replicate it, however, the machine crashed on us. So we removed the sample and tested it, and... well, see for yourself." She pulled a clipboard off the counter, paper half-attached in a moment of panic, and handed it to him.
Much of the writing consisted of advanced scientific keywords even Sben had little more than a layman's grasp of, along with nigh-endless strings of seemingly random numbers, but a measurement that had been highlighted and circled several times drew his attention in short order. "83% H2O, 17%... Na8S(AlSiO4)6? Come again?"
"That would be the chemical composition for lapis lazuli ore, sir. An abundance of which we found in his blood plasma."
"The thing people use in dyes, right?" The Peon Elite nodded, thankful she didn't have to correct him and risk losing something sensitive. "Well, the fuck's it doing flowing through his veins?"
"We have no concrete way to answer that, sir. It could be that Notch just created him that way, possibly for increased resilience. It's also entirely possible that he had an extensive addiction and kept injecting it into his blood until it started to 'push' the water out. I personally lean towards the latter theory, but what's truly important about this is how high in concentration it is.
"When we ran it through the machine, it wasn't prepared to process the ore. And since the process requires entirely whole, fresh blood, we couldn't refine it away. So we kept taking samples, hoping for a cleaner batch to work with, until it came to light that we -- as you can tell -- came just short of draining his circulatory system dry.
"Then, in a fit of desperation, we tried processing some of his other DNA-rich fluids. None of them got further than extrapolation before shutting the machine down, until we tried his cerebrospinal fluid, at which point the process started up as normal. However, there must still have been some blood in the mechanism's piping, and something royally fucked up, to put it bluntly, so... this happened. And we're all quite honestly scared shitless of it."
Behind her, the tank groaned, almost sounding impatient.
Sben looked at the Peon Elite, then down at Martyn, who was still somehow clinging to life, and on to the malfunctioning tank. "So... what you're telling me... is that a team of the best scientists the world over, with equipment rivaling that of the Valkyries, were so FUCKING INCOMPETENT that they failed to clean their machinery properly, took untested steps on a matter I'm personally involved in, and failed to inform me of the complications up until the proverbial eleventh hour? Answer me carefully, Peon."
"... S-sir... I'm terribly-"
In less than the time it took her to blink, Sben drew his jagged blade, gouged it into both of her eyes, and wiped it clean, letting her corpse hit the tiled floor with a moist thump. He then turned to the remaining two Peon Elites, motioning to the churning tank. "Get that open now. I want to see just what fresh hell has been spawned tonight, and whether or not it can competently hold a rifle."
One of the Elites nodded reluctantly, going over to release the locking mechanism that interrupted the process. The other stood at Sben's side, emergency pistol pointed at the murky glass.
Over on the desk, Martyn meekly turned his head to look at the tank. Though he was staying alive on slightly more blood than a particularly bad punch would take out of him, he was able to concentrate enough to feel an unspeakable sense of dread and hatred for whatever was about to be "born."
As a buzzing alarm above the machinery began to sound, the excess liquids in the tank quickly drained, leaving a thin layer of fog on the glass. Behind it, the clone -- or whatever Sben would have to call it now -- unfurled its visibly muscular limbs, standing to its full height. Its head came close to scraping the top of the tank as it stepped forward, pressing a single gray-green hand to the glass and swinging it outward.
It was nothing short of a bogeyman. Its skin was ripped and leathery, the torn pieces quickly hardening in the air to form patterns resembling scales. The entire front of its face was taken up by a ragged, lipless mouth that seemed fixed halfway open, inside which was a complete set of teeth as lethally sharp as the dagger that had taken a life moments prior. Over the top of its head, replacing the blonde hair Martyn had made famous, was a ridge of what seemed to be tall, green-black scabs.
A pair of beady, milky blue eyes -- the only part of the abomination that resembled anything of Martyn -- sized up Sben and his Peon Elite comrades. The beast made its way slowly toward them, striding confidently in a way that Sben would have found almost mocking if he hadn't been so engrossed in its behavior.
Whatever it was moved uninterestedly past the masked man and the terrified scientists, quickly tracing a path towards the helpless Martyn. The blonde looked up into eyes that mirrored his own, and a face that was a twisted mockery of the same, and did his best to put on the confident smile he was known for. "H... hel... lo... there... My... name's... Lit... tle... wood... also... known... as... Martyn..."
The creature raised its clawed fist in the air and calmly brought it down, with tremendous force, on Martyn's head. Blood sprayed out from the new hole in his scalp, adding a new color to his hair and once-bright green bandanna, and with a choked gasp of resignation, his head rolled back and his body went limp.
Sben watched on, sadistically curious, as the creature tore Martyn's bloodstained headgear away and proceeded to tie it around its own monstrous head, before sifting around in the dead man's inventory and lifting out the bow with which he'd been almost inhumanly skilled. As if it had practiced the maneuver hundreds of times before, the creature held up one of Martyn's remaining arrows, nocked it, pulled back the drawstring, and took aim at the still-buzzing alarm.
TEEEEE. TEEEEE. TEEEEE. TEEEEE.
The monster released, and the arrow flew on a remarkably precise path to the minuscule alarm. The sharpened head shattered the outer covering at its weakest point and buried itself in the circuitry, and with one dying 'teeeeeeep...', the lab fell silent.
Sben was the first to speak after the shock had subsided. "I don't know what the hell this thing is, or what to do with it, but goddamn, I love it."
To Silence I Call
I do implore you, gods of old Shine some light on my way It is dark here and very cold For your wisdom I pray To go or stay To leave dismay? To stay or go To halt or flow? "A little girl In such a whirl? Shall we now look What her so shook?" I paint my world in sad, strong lines Exactly how I feel I do wish I could read the signs You surely have shown me This way or that Will I fall flat? That way or this I'll step amiss? "A small, lost soul On a dark stroll What can we say To ease her pain?" I have only come before you With nowhere else to turn Tell me all the things that are true How long before I burn? "What of this one What has life spun? Do we tell her What's to occur?" I do implore you, gods long lost Grant me this one last will I see your eyes covered by frost Guess they were always still
The proverbial balls have officially curved.
© 2013 - 2021 KleinerKiller
>:3 I see I'm doing my job quite well! I feed on the anguished tears of my readers, after all. And I can guarantee that the story will not get any less cruel from here on out, so you might want to stock up on tissues.
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