[center [size11 [i They say the surface is inhabitable.]]] [center [size11 [i They also say ignorance is bliss.]]]
[center [pic http://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc477/linkthehero6/bunker_by_arsenixc-d5nsrx9%202_zps2nc1tx1k.jpg]]
[center [size11 In the distant future, the world above ground is off limits. The stories have all been mixed up and it was so long ago that no one remembers why. At least no one in the Cold Quarters. People said it was the weather, becoming either too hot or too cold for anyone to live above ground. Others said it must have been some kind of nuclear war. But most people didn't speak about it much. They hadn't known anything else but the chilly hallways and mess halls and rooms they called their God-forsaken home.]]
[center [size11 Those with the wealth and power had better accommodations, of course. No one in the Cold Quarters had ever been in the Luxury Quarters, so they could only assume what was there. But their guesses weren't far from the mark. They were brightly lit. The oxygen flowed better there. People had plants in their homes [i for looks]. They got entire housing structures for their families, instead of trying to fit five people to a room, like in the CQ. They ate better every day than the poor ate in a week. But the worst part of it all was that no one- except for the higher ups and council officials- had any idea that the CQ existed. They thought everyone lived their perfect lives...]]
[center [size11 Sometimes, however, there are breeches. People from the Cold Quarters find their way to the Luxury suites. Out of curiosity or out of hunger, it didn't matter. They'd always be escorted back, bloodied and bruised by the peacekeepers.]]
[center [size11 Dax was one of said peacekeepers. Or rather, he would be. He had grown up in the CQ. He had been hardened by life there. And he had wanted out. He discovered a way into the LQ with a team of rebels. They planned to take over the entire facility.]]
[center [size11 Their plans were broken, despite being the only group in history to get as far as they did. The council couldn't simply drop them back into the CQ. So they put them on ice, just waiting for their moment. If peacekeepers weren't scary enough for the low-lifes, then perhaps their own friends-turned-peacekeeper would be...]]
[center [size11 ________, was a curious man. And he was determined that all of this was a lie. That the Earth was indeed habitable. That something must have happened to decrease the Earth's population and drive them underground. But he didn't suspect weather or a war like everyone else, he suspected that it was all about power. It was [i always] about power. They wanted everyone easier to control.]]
[center [size11 If anyone heard about his hypothesis, they would take it as heresy, and he would no doubt be executed. So he waited. For what, he wasn't sure. He could wait his whole life for some kind of opportunity to prove himself and open up everyone else's eyes. Luckily, that opportunity landed in his lap much sooner than he thought.]]
[center [size11 Dax had been sent to the CQ as a regular peacekeeper. His memory had been wiped and a control chip had been installed into his neck. Dax knew only one thing, now: obey. That is, until ________ takes the council's new strategy and turned it against them. The only problem with controlling ex-civilians is that they could be broken. They could remember. ________ hatches a plan to remove the control chip from Dax's neck. Dax knew his way around the entire place now, both Cold and Luxury quarters and every space in between. If he could recruit this man to aid him into uncovering the truth... ]]
[center [pic https://40.media.tumblr.com/968263ce27214a88bf19d1ea8917b787/tumblr_np0scvT5vI1qewgtco1_500.jpg]]
[center [size11 [b ☆] YES, this is also a ROMANCE between our characters.
[center [size11 [b ☆] There will be mature themes. Gore, possibility of drug use, strong language, and sex .
[center [size11 [b ☆] Please be able to post AT LEAST 3,000-4,000 CHARACTERS per post when quite a bit is going on. At least 1,500-2,000 characters per dialog posts. I exceed these a lot, but that's just because I get carried away. I'm more concerned about QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.
[center [size11 [b ☆] Please send me an example post in your request to join. PLEASE do not write anything new. I accept copy-and-pastes or links to older posts or threads.
[center [size11 [b ☆] PLEASE do not rely on me alone to create plot twists and to keep the story moving. I love when my partners throw just as much of their own ideas into the plot as well!
[center [size11 [b ☆] I'm picky with pictures, but don't let that scare you. I love candid-like pictures that look like they suit the plot. Your character is going to need to look unkempt and grungy. He's from the Cold Quarters- the poor quarters. They don't have hair gel there, haha.
[center [size11 [b ☆] TALK to me~! I don't bite and I love talking about plans for the story and obsessing over our characters!
The door opened slowly, the hinges protesting the whole way. Dax stood there hunched over. He wasn't much taller than the man standing before him, but he was heavier. He suddenly felt like the room was too small. Claustrophobia gripped him and he realized how familiar that was.
His captor- or companion it seemed- wasn't quite as Dax remembered him. Though all he really remembered was a blur of light hair. Now that the chip wasn't preventing his mind from taking in his surroundings, he could finally take in the other's appearance for what he was: young. His eyes were bright, his fringe in his eyes. Gil, he suddenly remembered him calling himself. All that had happened had jumbled his thoughts. Not to mention he wasn't used to having any in the first place.
When their eyes met, he took a step backward and Dax realized that Gil was just as frightened as he was by their current situation. As if he wanted a reason to be rid of the silence, the younger man offered him some food. And suddenly his stomach felt empty. He hadn't eaten since before any of this.
"How long was I out?" he asked instead of giving an answer.
It was strange to even think about food. He had eaten before, but he didn't remember what food tasted like. Surely it had a taste. He knew it did. He heard people talking about it, but he had never known the meaning himself. He ate what was put in front of him.
Finally, he nodded at Gil. He could feel his stomach churning just at the thought. When he left, Dax wanted to follow. He wanted to see the rest of Gil's tiny home, but he didn't think it was appropriate. This confused him because he had never needed permission to enter people's quarters before...
While Gil was away, Dax stepped through the door to look around the main room once more. He stepped up to the desktop. He didn't dare touch it. He had no idea how to use something like that, even if it might have been simple compared to those in the Luxury Quarters.
If Gil had made all this stuff by himself and if he was studying these luxury pieces and parts... If he had given Dax his free will back... He had to be smart. He ran a calloused hand over the desk, wondering what would happen if the council learned that someone from the CQ had obtained tech that was from the LQ. He'd be put to dead. Another raid. A mysterious death in the night...
Dax felt strange thinking about that. If Gil had truly helped him, he didn't want him to be punished. That was blasphemy, of course, but Dax considered it one of his first human emotions.
Gil returned with a tray of steaming bowls of soup and glasses of water. Dax took the bowl and went to take a sip. Gil hardly had time to warn him before Dax was gritting his teeth. He almost dropped the bowl as the hot broth burned his tongue and throat. He coughed once or twice before setting the bowl aside and grabbing a glass of water. He drained half of it before finally able to breathe again.
He gripped his throat. "I forgot what that felt like," Dax said, hoarse. A second later his eyes widened, a small smile growing on his face. "I remember now, though. I remember."
[i I remember,] he repeated to himself. [i I was somebody before I was a peacekeeper.]
Gil nodded as the peacekeeper spoke, then realized he wasn't taking notes at all! He jumped up and scrambled around the lab for a pen and a notebook, then returned to his place before the door and started scribbling madly, writing down everything that had happened from last night--including the sudden disconnection--until this morning, making direct quotes of everything the peacekeeper said. He finished off the notes with the last words from the peacekeeper--from Dax's mouth, and included a note: [i coercion? humor? bargaining? Good sign.]
Below that, he paused, then added the words: [i Releasing subject from containment.]
For a long moment, he stared at the words, then realized he was stalling and set the notebook down. Even so, he was full of trepidation. What if the man attacked him, killed him? He wouldn't have the same inhibitions as an ordinary human. What if the man broke free and ran to the council? That would almost be a worse fate than being murdered, because then the man would be killed, his data destroyed, and he himself would likely be pressed into service as a peacekeeper.
He heaved in a breath. He was still stalling. He had to open the door. If he didn't, if he didn't take the next step, he never would.
"Alright," he said, nerves diminishing his cheer somewhat. "Alright." This one was cheerier, more upbeat. "Don't make any sudden movements, though."
He pushed the chair aside, setting it against the wall, then straightened out all his clothes and dried his palms. The door seemed miles away, unreachable. A little step forward brought it into each. Slowly, Gil raised his hand, flicked the deadbolt open. It seemed too easy, suddenly, impossibly so. His hand fell to the doorknob, and he twisted it. The door swung open easily, revealing the man who had seemed so helpless last night and so terrifying today. His eyes took in stubble, dark hair, tired eyes, and he backed a step away unconsciously. Swallowing nervousness, he forced a smile. "Are you hungry? I've got some food upstairs, I could bring you some."
At first Dax was answered with silence. Then, finally, a too-chipper voice. It was hard to keep up with the words coming from the other side of the door. Dax was confused and disoriented. Like an animal backed into a corner.
[i Restored his free will?] Dax took another look at himself in the mirror as he listened through the door. The other man's questions were moving just about as fast as his own. He heard him start to pace just outside the room, eagerness in every step. What was Dax to him? Some kind of experiment?
If that were the case, nothing changed. Dax still needed to remember who he was. He still needed to put the pieces together. And he wouldn't gain any of them by losing his temper again. He gripped the sides of the sink, making the stranger outside wait for him to gather his thoughts. He started to repeat what he had found out himself just moments before.
"My name is Dax..." he said slowly. "I'm a peacekeeper. I... do what the council tells me. I don't remember anything from... before." He closed his eyes tightly, hoping that something would come to him. Again, there was nothing. "My head hurts," he mumbled through the door. "I feel heavy. I'm not used to having so many... thoughts."
Dax took the steps to the bed before sitting down again and putting his face in his hands. Part of him wished this had never happened. That he remained forever a mindless brute that simply took orders. The other half of him felt as if he'd been subconsciously trying to get out of the hands of the council members, even if he hadn't known it at the time.
"If I promise not to attack you, will you let me out of here?" he finally joked after a long silence. The joke, however dark and dry, was still a joke and it rolled off his tongue as naturally as anything else he'd said. Was his personality simply lying dormant under the councils' influence? Was he going to have to learn himself all over again?
Gil woke up slowly. He stretched and stared at the ceiling of his room for a while, thinking of nothing, but eventually nature called. He heaved himself out of bed and into the bathroom, got ready for the day, then started downstairs to make breakfast. On the stairs down, he heard a thumping and shouting that sounded like it was coming from his house, of all things, but that didn't make any sense. There wasn't anyone in his house but--
He jumped and grinned to himself, overcome with joy. He'd done it, at long last; he'd done it! Breakfast forgotten, he hurried downstairs to unlock the room and greet the man, but paused when the man pounded on the door and shouted again. What had he done to him? But shouldn't he be happy? Gil had freed him...
No, this had to be a part of his conditioning. That, or he was just overwhelmed, confused by it all. And of course. He'd just had a rather traumatic awakening. He had every right to be confused.
"Hello! What's your name?" he asked cheerfully, pulling up a chair to face the door. "I'm Gil, I'm the one who freed you from that chip's influence. You were a peacekeeper, do you remember? But now I've restored your free will. You might be a little confused right now; I understand that. It's perfectly fine. Please, calm down. Look at your wrists. I didn't restrain you. I only locked the door because I worried you might wander through my workshop and hurt yourself before you could get used to being...well, human again."
He stood, turned the chair around, and sat on it backwards, still facing the door. "So what does it feel like? Does anything hurt? What do you remember?" In his eagerness, his questions were all running together, overlapping over each other. He forced himself to be still and to listen for the man's replies, but couldn't quite manage it. He got up again and started pacing in front of the door, nervously, back and forth. He wanted to ask too many questions, but he was worried he'd overwhelm the newly-freed peacemaker. So he kept pacing, listening eagerly for a reply.
For the first time in a very, very long time, Dax dreamt. He dreamt of things he'd never seen before, even in his life before becoming a peacekeeper. He saw a bright orb in the vastness of the sky and a thick ocean of green under his feet. There were children laughing and people singing. He felt peace wash over him: an emotion he could not recall ever having.
When his eyes fluttered open, he was greeted with the metal walls of the Cold Quarters and suddenly his dream was ripped away from him. The peacefulness dissolved and turned into the hopelessness of being confined like a rat in a cage. He knew that feeling all too well. He lived with it his whole life.
[i His whole life?] He sat up slowly, gripping his pounding head. The room spun around him for a moment before he could finally make out the small room. He was alone. He stood, stumbling his way to the sink in the corner to splash water on his face. It was only then that he caught his own gaze in the mirror. He leaned in close, looking at himself. He felt a vague familiarity with the man he saw. He ran a hand down his face and leaned against the sink.
"Dax," he mumbled softly. "My name is Dax." He looked at himself as he spoke, hoping he could convince himself that he was real. "I'm a peacekeeper. I was born- I was..." he felt like he should know this. That whole time as a peacekeeper had drained him of any questions. Now, suddenly, he was able to question anything and everything. He didn't like that responsibility. His stomach curled into knots, making him feel nauseous as he tried to remember where he was from and who he was.
"I was born in..." he started again, stumbling over his own thoughts. He caught a glimpse of the room behind him in the mirror. The familiar chill, the prison-like feeling of the walls... Here. "I was born here," he said, more as a question than anything. He tried to remember more, but he couldn't. Nothing else presented itself to him. He tried and he tried, but to no avail. There was nothing. He slammed his hand down on the sink in frustration.
It was only then that he remembered he hadn't been alone. He turned towards the door of the small room and tried to open it. It was locked. Why was it locked? And what had that man done to him?
His hand instantly went to the back of his neck. He felt the cut. What was more is he felt the hardness underneath. What was in his neck? What had this stranger done to him? All his time as a peacekeeper, he had no idea the chip had been there. He had no idea that's what it was. So his only conclusion was that this man had put it there. He started to pound on the door.
"What did you do to me!?" he shouted through the door.
It was a failure. Dear God, another failure. He could only helplessly watch the man seize, could only watch as he fell to the floor, blood splattering across his spotless floor with each successive jerk. The cable popped free of his neck, and Gil cringed, but luck, such as it was, was with the man, and he went on twitching. But was it really luck? Had he succeeded in leaving him alive, only to consign him to life as a vegetable, unable to move or communicate?
After an eternity, the seizure ground to a halt. The man laid still; so still, too still. Gil crouched and felt for a pulse, heart thumping in his ears. He couldn't feel a pulse, he couldn't--
He jumped for his defibrillator, then paused. Had he been feeling in the right place? He scurried back to try again, and just as his fingers touched warm flesh, the man shuddered and blinked. For the first time, his eyes roved around the room, taking in the ramshackle, crowded space. Gil's heart jumped onto his throat. Had it worked? Was this success, at last?
The man's lips moved, shaped words. He whispered something, voice dusty with disuse, and Gil stooped to hear it.
He jumped up, clapping his hands in excitement, and let out a whoop. It had worked! At last, at last, he had success! A question! A word! Oh, how wonderful!
"You're probably very confused," he started, then realized the man had passed out. "That's very inconsiderate of you," he informed the unconscious man, chucking; then he heaved him up, over his shoulder, and set him back on the chair. He was heavy, heavier than he'd looked, even.
"Should've chosen someone smaller," he grumbled, as he dashed around the room. He glued the wound shut; he was no surgeon. That was the best he could do. Once the wound was closed, he picked the man up, draping him over his shoulder so his feet dragged on the floor, and dragged him to a hidden room in the wall of his shop. There was a bed there, a toilet, and a sink. It would serve as the man's apartment, if everything went well, until Gil had thoroughly studied him. Then, when he'd gotten everything he could from the man, he'd reprogram him and send him back. It was cruel, but necessary, if he was going to save his Delia. And he'd do anything for that.
Dax heard the man coming down the stairs before he saw him and he didn't think twice when he was asked to sit. His brain didn't understand that this man shouldn't be giving him orders. The chip in his pocket was talking to the chip in his head, and it told him to obey. So he did.
He took the several steps over to the only clean chair and sat, stiff as a board. Dax felt the incision, but it didn't hurt. And since he was void of any curiosity, he wasn't even allowed to wonder why this stranger was cutting into the back of his neck. All he knew is he was ordered to sit still while he rummaged about inside his head, pulling on parts of the chip inside.
Dax saw the stranger bring the cable and felt it click into place. He watched the man cross back to his clunky desktop and press a single button. A progress bar popped up on the black and green screen, filling ever so slowly. Dax watched the green bar grow and grow. He felt nothing at first. But ten minutes slowly ticked by and by the time the progress bar was almost full, his body suddenly gave into a spasm. It had only just filled entirely when Dax let out a grunt and the seizing hit him again. He slid out of the chair, hitting the floor hard. The cable at the back of his neck was suddenly wrenched away by the force of the tug. His luck was with him, as if it had been at any other angle, it would have killed him.
And suddenly he could feel the cut on his neck and the warm blood that came from it. He could feel the cold floor on his face as he shook against it. The seizing slowly came to a halt and he was left staring at the concrete floor. At first there was nothing. No signs of consciousness or life within him. He simply laid there, eyes open, but unseeing.
And then, finally, he blinked. Once, twice, three times. He groaned and tried to sit up, but he was wiped of all energy. "Where-?" was all he managed to say before he slowly slipped out of the world. His head fell back and the blood from his neck pooled onto the concrete floor.
Gil busied himself getting everything ready, clearing off a seat for the man and preparing his tools. He wasn't a surgeon of any sort, and definitely wasn't used to dealing with live subjects. The Peacekeepers were hardly alive, so far as free will went, but their bodies still bled, and the chips were located inside their skulls. He couldn't reach the actual chips without brain surgery, which would almost certainly result in the Peacekeeper's death, but there were ports at the back of their necks that could be reached with a shallow incision, from which the chips' instructions could be altered.
So far, his alterations had done everything from make the Peacekeepers raging berserkers to make their heart stop , but he was getting closer. The last one had almost managed to say something, and he'd gotten a lot of information about the source code. This time, he'd be closer. Maybe this one would actually be able to say something of his own.
A shadow was looming in the doorway when he came rushing back down the stairs, and he froze halfway down, eyes wide as a startled deer's, a screwdriver tumbling from the top of the pile to thud down the stairs. The shadow resolved into the Peacekeeper from earlier, his wrinkled face impassive despite the smile lines and crow's feet. A sigh rushed over Gil, running through him and letting out the tension with it. "Jeez! You people," he said, heaving a deep breath. "Come on over, sit down, please." He gestured at the one chair completely free of detritus.
So long as the Peacekeeper was under the influence of the metal disk, he would view any of Gil's commands as the same as though it came from the mouth of a Council member. He bustled about the room while the Peacekeeper crossed to his seat, then picked up a scalpel and smiled. "This won't hurt a bit," he promised, and as far as he knew, it wouldn't. None of them had ever reacted to his cutting.
He made a short incision in the back of the man's neck. Blood rolled out, hot, dark, fat red drops; his fingers shook with trepidation as he spread the flesh apart, as he gently wiped the blood away with a square of sterile gauze. The connector thrust out of the man's flesh like a parasite's arms, thick and [i wrong,] the wire black and slippery with gore. His hands grew steadier with the surety of practice, and he pulled gently on the wire--very gently--and cleaned it. The cap stuck, swollen and sticky with blood; he had to pull harder, and winced, imagining the chip jostled in the man's head, or worse, pulled free entirely, and he would have a dead Peacekeeper in one hand and the blood-soaked chip with its rat's-tail connector in the other. But then it came free, and, familiarity restored, he deftly attached the connector to the cable that ran to his desktop. It was a monstrosity he'd cobbled together out of every last piece of scrap he could find, made of cheap parts from the Cold Quarters and expensive parts from somewhere no one would tell him about, somewhere that had gotten Delia arrested when she'd asked about it.
"Don't move," he ordered the man; if he moved, he would almost certainly die. He crossed to his desktop and pressed the button to begin the download, holding his breath despite himself. [i Let this be the one! Please, let it be the one!]
Dax didn't know at the time how significant that interaction was, and he wasn't wired to feel suspicion anymore. Suspicion led to curiosity, and curiosity led to questions. And the council didn't want him or any of the other peacekeepers to suspect anything they might be up to.
It had taken them decades to perfect the chip. The first test subjects had been driven to suicide because it messed with all the wrong parts of the brain. After that, they got closer and closer, but every batch of subjects would fail in one way or another. Too literally obedient or not literal enough. Too violent, not violent enough. One batch had just become non-responsive to anything. They sat there without feeling the need to eat or sleep. Even when the chip was removed, they didn't come to.
So the past few years where the chips had finally started to work was a miracle to the council. They were finally able to create their perfect army. It was an army that wouldn't question, make good judgements on behalf of the council, and above all: obey.
But they hadn't planned on there being a kink in the system. They hadn't planned on someone figuring them out and learning how to break the hold of the chips. And Dax, who was prevented from all suspicion, wasn't able to refuse the strange calling that directed him back to the Cold Quarters that night. It was as if a member of the council had told him to go there, though he didn't recall hearing their voice in his communicator. But the feeling was there, so it must have been true.
Dax stepped into the dark hallways. Most people were shut inside their rooms by now. The more aggressive citizens from the CQ were known to come out at night to perform illegal activities, but Dax wasn't interested in them. The drug dealing and the fighting pit weren't the council's concern.
He stopped in front of a doorway, feeling that this was somehow the place. The door was open, so Dax stepped inside, taking a look around the small room. Wires were hung all over the place and the desk was a complete mess of electronics and tools. He couldn't help but notice that there was a mixture of the older technology that the Cold Quarters were used to, and some random small bits of the higher quality stuff the Luxury Quarters used. Whoever made their home here was intelligent and knew their way around technology.
It was this thought that reminded him of his earlier encounter. The man had been carrying all kinds of pieces and parts like these. Could this be his room?
It was another long day in the low tunnels of the Quarters, and as usual, Gil had too much to do. Andu wanted his radio fixed, Kale's servbot had broken down again, and Sam's rickety old desktop was on the verge of meltdown, but it always was. It seemed like everything was always breaking down around here; sometimes he marveled that he ever managed to fix anything, as often as things fell apart. They'd been down here for years, and the pieces were starting to show their age. He was hurried towards his shop, various bits and pieces clutched in his arms, when someone thumped hard into him.
Gill stumbled back, circuitboards and parts tumbling out of his hands. Rudely, the one who'd bumped into him kept on going and stomped right over his biggest circuitboard--cracking the fragile silicon chip right in half. He stared at the halves in disbelief as those big boots kept on stomping right through, crushing delicate parts and pieces.
"Hey, hey, excuse me!" he snapped, grabbing at the man's arm. His hand closed on blue uniform, and he paused, looking up the blue sleeve to the weathered face and grim eyes. A Peacekeeper.
"Oh, good morning, sir. Tell the government they owe me a new circuitboard, or a thousand credits," he said politely, smoothing out the Peacekeeper's uniform. He tried to act calm, but his hands were shaking--and not only because he'd just shouted at a Peacekeeper. In one hand he palmed a small metal disk, and as he straightened out the Peacekeeper's uniform, he slipped the disk into one of the dress pockets on the front of his uniform. He'd worked hard on it, put hours and hours and hours into it, and if it went well, then the Peacekeeper's controlling chip would compel him to return to Gil's shop tonight. And then...then he would try to break his chip, like he'd done with all the others.
This wasn't the first time he'd pulled this trick. He needed to figure out how to break the Peacekeeper's control chips. They had Delia. If he could break the chips, then maybe he could get Delia back at last, free her from their terrible influence. It hurt so much to watch her march past, with no idea who he or anyone else was. But so far, he'd had no success. He'd had to send the Peacekeepers back with their chip still intact and hope that the same control system that kept them from speaking to citizens kept them from having enough free will to report on him. So far, it seemed as though he'd been getting away with it.He hadn't been caught yet, anyways. But he knew he wouldn't get lucky forever. Sometime soon, he'd have to make a breakthrough, or the risk would grow too high, and he'd end up a Peacekeeper right next to his sister.
Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn't be better that way, to just blindly obey orders until he died, without any worries or cares. But another part of him--most of him, frankly--was terrified at the prospect. No free will? No tinkering with electronics, or hanging out with the boys ever again? It sounded like literal hell. And he had to rescue Delia from it.
"Good luck on your rounds!" he shouted after the Peacekeeper. Then, more quietly, to himself, he added: "See you tonight."
Dax had never seen the sun. He had never felt the wind in his hair or smelled wet grass. He'd never bit into anything quite as luxurious as a strawberry. He'd never seen a stream of water except for what he washed down the sink.
Dax had grown up an orphan in the Cold Quarters: the chilly, damp, dark quarters that stretched out underground the Earth's surface. A last name had never been given to him. Like most in the Cold Quarters, the older he got, the colder he became. Riots would break out regularly. Most peacekeepers wouldn't bother coming into the dank space just to split them up. So people began to gamble. A fighting put opened up. Gang wars broke out. Drugs were dealt in plain sight.
Dax was a part of all these things, but he'd always wanted to aim a little higher. A poor man's ambition was almost as deadly as a poor man's hunger. Dax had found a way into the Luxury Quarters. Or rather, he found his way into the ducts running alongside them. He figured he'd rather die having explored a little bit instead of seeing the same walls and the same faces every God forsaken day. He couldn't have even dream up what he had seen through the slats in the air ducts.
The light was so bright it hurt to look at. When his eyes adjusted, he saw people in colorful outfits, eating dainty little pastries off of dainty little platters. They were laughing and singing and complimenting each other's [i shoes]. Dax was fascinated.
All his life he'd heard stories of the Luxury Quarters. The tales told of banquets and warm air. But it was more than that. It was so much more. It was a life without worry. They are their colorful pastries while everyone else below them starved to death. And that's when Dax decided he was going to do something about it.
All it granted him, however, was a life worse than death.
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Dax didn't remember waking up. He didn't remember putting on his blue uniform. He didn't remember loading his gun. But somehow he was looking at himself in a full-length mirror, his holster on his hip.
"My, my," said a voice from across the white room. He turned his head to find the woman who spoke. "Don't you look dashing." A middle aged woman was sprawled across a chaise as if she was posing for something important. She bit the tip of a cherry off its stem. "Blue suits you." She stood, her long gown dragging on the spotless, white tile. "Poor, Dax, though. That is your name right?" She closed the distance between them and put a hand on the side of his face.
"I- don't remember," he found himself replying.
"Of course you don't," the woman replied, as if she were talking to a child. "But that's alright. All you need to do is obey. Now... Dax? I want you to pull out that pistol of yours." Dax, knowing he must obey, did as he was told. "Now I want you to hold it to your head." He raised the gun. There was no fear in his eyes. In fact, there was nothing to be seen there at all. "Now count to three, aloud if you will. And on three, I want you to pull the trigger."
"One... two... thr-"
"Put your gun away, you have proven yourself to be very useful indeed."
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Dax and a few others like him were trained, day after day. They studied the maps of the facilities. They honed their skills with a gun. The council was breeding an army out of its own enemy. If Dax could remember, he would have known the men to either side of him. But they were only strangers now. Strangers who worked, but didn't tire. Men and women that bled, but didn't feel. Merciless machines, the lot of them, trained to obey and nothing else.
Throughout these months, Dax never once questioned himself or his identity. He never once wondered who he was or where he had come from. He trusted the people in charge and he ate up their propaganda. The people in the Cold Quarters were all criminals. They wanted to kill everyone in the Luxury Quarters. They were terrible people who deserved no mercy.
The first time he went into the CQ, he felt the cold but it did not make him shake. People looked at him with terror in their eyes. Some tried to speak to him. In the training, they told him that these people would pretend to know him. He ignored them and looked at them with eyes of steel. Soon, on his rounds below, they stopped talking to him altogether. He preferred it that way. He wasn't made to talk. He was made to carry out orders.
And he wasn't made to be polite, either. Making his rounds in the Cold Quarters one evening, a younger man bumped into him. He had been carrying pieces of this and that, all jumbled together in a heap of electric wires and metal pieces Dax didn't have a name for. They went scattering and the man went to pick them all up. Dax hardly granted him a glance before continuing on, his boots crunching one or two of the fallen items on their way.
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