Cacophonies

Author: Azzy
Artist: Ruby
Beta: Robotkumo & Asylumfarm
Pairring: none
Characters: Seth Ryder × Liam Kosta × Gil Brodie × Foster Addison × Cora Harper × Clancy Arquist × Alec Ryder
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Everybody fucking dies × No happy end × Insanity × Murder × Alternate Universe – Dark × alternate universe – no space travel × Alternate Universe – Post-Apocalypse × Madness × No Romance × Implied/Referenced Rape/Non-con × Implied/Referenced Child Abuse × Implied/Referenced Self-Harm × Implied/Referenced Abuse × Implied/Referenced Drug Addiction × Daddy Issues
Summary: Seth Ryder is awoken from cryosleep to a world that is very different than the one he knew. The only thing he has to hold onto is his survival instinct and his ever present voice in his head called Sam.
Authors note: This story was supposed to be twice as long, so I had to end it on a cliffhanger and who knows, I might write the other half to the next mebb?! This was actually just the introduction of Seth and the universe – but it just has to work as a story, cause I ran out of time.
Anyways I feel like I should explain this story a little.
I am aware that this is a super simplistic and crude depiction of hearing voices, but it’s too hard to write too many voices in his head, but also I wanted to play into the fact that during the game Sam tells you what to do, so it’s not that I am trying to depicture a realistic and true image of what it means to hear voices. Nor am I poking fun at people who hear voices or mental illness in general.
All the ‘implied’ warnings above is only a mention by Sam inside Seth’s mind, Sam likes to remind Seth of terrible things, so it’s just like a line or two, but I still felt I should warn for it. I made up my own universe for this, and I hope it makes somewhat sense, I borrowed heavily from games like Fallout and Killzone. And while the game Senua’s sacrifice was not out when I wrote this, then I can see how some of those themes could resemble themes in this story too. You can see a screencapture of Seth here.
Thank you a million to AsylumFarm & Robotkumo who looked my story over and tried to make it work. You guys rock!! And thank you to Ruby who was my artist again this year, it’s always a joy to work with you – seriously. Go see her wonderful art here.

cacophony (kəˈkɒfənɪ)
n, pl -nies
harsh discordant sound; dissonance

bannercacophonies copy

You call them angels
Their wings sharp as broken windows
In the city’s neon-blinking rivers of stone.
You are bleeding my boy, like a broken sun.

– M. Strunge


When Seth woke, he woke with a scream, like being born again. The doctor hurriedly gave him a shot of something that made his body heavy and warm. Seth sighed and relaxed into the military cot. He heard a machine beeping and people talking in hushed voices. His throat felt raw, and his eyes dry.

“Seth?” The doctor asked, “Can you hear me?”

“Yes.” Seth whispered hoarsely, slowly opening his eyes to look up at the doctor’s worried face. Breathing in the antiseptic smell of a hospital room.

“What is your full name?”

“Seth Memphis Ryder.” Seth answered, blinking slowly.

“Date of birth?”

“21st of March, 2163.”

The doctor looked down at his notes and nodded. “Are you experiencing headaches, nausea or double vision?”

“No.” Seth said, not really sure if he was telling the truth or not, since it felt like a massive headache might be crawling up on him.

“Do you know where you are, son?”

[Alec’s fantastic project, remember? – Remember what he did to you?]

“Uhm.. eh, that spaceship thing?” Seth answered slightly dazed. He remembered Dad’s grand plan to save humanity and that they had brought him to the cryopods kicking and screaming. The last thing he remembered was his father’s smile, and the words ‘just let go son’.

The doctor nodded, “Ark Hyperion.”

“Yeah.”

“We – uhm. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything since you just woke up, but the Initiative changed while you’ve been in cryo.” The doctor sat down on a chair and smiled at Seth. Seth blinked and smiled resigned, “Of course it did.”

[Alec never liked to just leave things alone, did he?]

“Maybe you should just see Addison when you’re feeling better. I’m sure she’ll fill you in on everything that has happened up to now.” The doctor said as he stood from his chair and walked over to the intercom. He pushed a button and called, “Ryder is awake”

[Be careful, act normal – maybe they don’t know the truth, maybe Alec kept them in the dark.]

Seth sat up with a groan, his muscles ached and he was sure that when whatever the doctor had given him wore off, it would hurt like a motherfucker all over. He rolled his neck and heard a satisfying crack.

“Sandra, would you take Ryder to see Addison?” The doctor said, and as soon as the words left his mouth, a nurse was standing by Seth’s side.

They left the doctor’s office in silence, Seth slowly following the nurse. “Are you exited?” Nurse Sandra asked.

[You could snap her neck right now and she wouldn’t even notice.]

“About what?” Seth asked rubbing his aching arm. God, he hated ‘Sam’ sometimes. Sam was the name his therapist at the Twin Rivers Sanatorium had given to the voice in his head. Seth had wanted to name him Demon, because he would always reach in and pull out the darkest fears and desires from somewhere in the back of his mind. Most of the time he could tune him out, and what he could not tune out he had learned to ignore. As much as he hated Sam, sometimes he was also his only friend, the only one who understood him, understood his pain and fear, his shame and anger. Unlike Alec, Sam was with him always.

[Snap it…]

“Your work assignment of course.” Sandra laughed softly. When Ryder looked confused, Sandra continued, “Everyone in the Ark gets determined a classification based on their genetic profile. That means everyone here has their perfect job. You are what you do, what you do is who you are.”

Seth just blinked, “Who was the asshole that came up with that stupid idea?”

[Oh, you know who pulled the strings here Seth, don’t be so stupid, boy.]

Sandra paled and hushed Seth, “Don’t, she’ll hear you.”

Seth shrugged, “Who?”

[Sam, Sam, Sam-o]

“Not so loud!” Sandra whispered.

Seth stopped and leaned in and whispered “Who?”

“Addison, or her people. Word of advice, it’s not wise to question administrative decisions.” Sandra looked over her shoulder and then leaned in and shelled Seth’s ear with her hand, “Those who do get exiled.”

“Gone permanently?”

Sandra nodded.

“Gotcha.”

They walked down the hall and up metal stairs, Seth could feel the stares as they walked through what was either a mess hall or some form of common area, Seth attempted a smile but it just came off as a grimace. Sandra followed Seth up another flight of stairs and pushed a door, which opened with a soft swoosh. “Ryder for you Director,” she said and turned with a little smile at Seth before walking out, leaving him alone with a haggard looking woman behind a large crescent moon shaped desk.

[Did Alec really fuck that bag of bones, oh come on!]

“Seth Ryder. Welcome to Ark 24” She said, “I am Addison, the Director.” She smiled, “I imagine you have a lot of questions. So first thing’s first – The initiative wanted to preserve scientists and the pinnacle of humanity, your father’s role in all this made sure that you and your sister were some of the first to be included.” The doctor licked her lips nervously. “Not long after you went into cryogenic sleep, geopolitical events got complicated. Concerned we would not have the time needed to launch into space, we did what we had to in order to keep the mission alive, we relocated deep underneath the Mojave desert. Soon after war broke out. Nuclear War. The world topside is still not ideal for living, which is why we changed the schedule for waking the sleepers.”

[Did she just wag her tail when Alec told her to go along with all this?]

Seth blinked sheepishly; he couldn’t make heads or tails of this whole thing. “Is this real?”

[Tell her how they shot you full of drugs before they strapped you into the pod, tell them you killed one of the staff trying to get free before the tranquilizer kicked in. And tell her how Alec Ryder just stood in the corner and observed. Do you remember how furious and scared you were? I do.]

Addison smiled overbearingly and nodded, like she had given this speech a hundred times before. “I know son, but the important thing is that you are here and are safe.”

“My family?” Seth asked, “Are they here?”

“Your father and sister both belong to this ark, and are both awake.” Addison smiled.

“My mother?”

“No one knows, sadly. You have to understand that there was a lot of chaos in the days before the arks closed their doors, sabotage, riots, pure anarchy I tell you.” She paused and carefully chose her words, “Your mother’s pod got lost, and we have not been able to locate her, your father and sister are still searching.” Addison cleared her throat and moved on quickly, “I want you to spend today getting familiar with the facility and the rules. First thing tomorrow, you will pull your weight like everyone else here.” Addison turned her gaze from Seth to the monitor of the computer at her left, “Now let’s see where the Super Computer has assigned so you can find your bunk, have your personal things brought up, have a meal and watch the obligatory regulations of Ark 24 movie for newly woken.”

Seth sighed, still not sure if he should laugh or cry, this was like waking in a nightmare, and as he sat still waiting for Addison to find him in the system, he couldn’t help but to suspect that the muscle relaxant that the doctor had administered had had more than one function.

“There you are!” Addison said with a little victorious grin. “Seth Ryder, born March 21st 2163.”

[Wonder what information she has about you there on her little monitor? You think Alec scrubbed it, or would it tell them about Twin Rivers mental hospital? You think she got your files? Think she knows how much you cried? How you screamed for your mother when they strapped you down? Think she knows you are a pussy? A crazy pussy. Crazy.]

“That would be me.”

“You are… let me see,” Addison’s long fingers flexed as she looked through information on her monitor. “Ah, there we are, you’re in engineering.”

“I’m what?”

[Oh yeah, she got you pegged down son, she knows about your disgraceful discharge from the bomb unit… If she knows that, you think she knows about that janitor at Laguna Bay Academy? I bet you she does, and that is why she is smiling.]

Addison smiled motherly again, “Engineering, son. That’s what it says. The Computer is always right.” She took a pen and scribbled, “You report to Chief Engineer Gil Brodie first thing in the morning. Sub level seven.” She briefly looked up at Seth, “I’ll let him know you’re coming.”

“But…”

[See that? She is smiling because she knows what a little crybaby you are.]

“That’s what it says, so that is your assignment.”Addison took a deep breath, “The world is not sustainable for everyone yet. Everyone awake in the ark at any given time is essential personnel. The Computer assures everyone is where they need to be.”

Seth rose a brow at this.

“I’ll have Cora take you to your bunk.” Addison said with a stern tone, signaling the conversation was over. She pushed the intercom, “Cora, Please take Ryder to maintenance personnel quarters and assign him bunk seven.” The voice in the other end said ‘yes ma’am’ and then Addison returned her attention to Ryder, “If you’d wait outside the door, Cora will be with you shortly”.

“Alright.” Ryder stood slowly, he knew when he was being dismissed.

“In the future, address me as Director, or ma’am.” She nodded towards the door to the hall, “For today, I will ignore your little misstep, you did just wake up.”

[Bend over and take it like a man, why don’t you?]

“Great, thanks.” Seth groaned, and added “ma’am.” He turned and left the dimly lit office, and walked out into the hall, he saw what he assumed was Cora even before the door swooshed closed behind him.

“Ryder?” Cora asked.

“Yep.” Seth nodded, still waiting to wake from this bizarre dream, wishing his voices would shut the fuck up.

“I’m Cora.” She held out her hand for Seth to shake it. “So Ryder, as in Alec Ryder?” She asked casually, even if Seth suspected that she knew the answer.

[Oh great, one of your Alec’s disciples. You think he fucked her? I think he fucked her.]

“Yes, Alec is my father,” Seth said following Cora down stairs and through corridors.

As they were further from Addison’s office, Cora slowed down her pace, “I worked with Alec before all this, before the war. I’m sorry about your mother.”

[Balls deep, son.]

“Thanks.” Seth said, he stopped and grabbed Cora’s arm, making her stop too. “Look, this is –“

“Too much?” Cora said with a little smile, “Believe me, we’ve all been in your shoes. Just give it some time.”

[In and out, in and out.]

“Where are Alec and Sara? Addison said they were awake and around.” Seth asked, scratching his cheek surprised that he had stubble. He thought you weren’t supposed to age in cryo, and ergo your hair and nails and such wasn’t supposed to grow either, but obviously he didn’t get the official orientation. “This is mad,” He mumbled to himself, “I don’t even know what fucking year this is, why am I here – what the fuck is going on?” His voice rose an octave, he gestured towards the metallic snot green walls, “What is this place?” Raking a hand through his hair he hissed ‘fuck’ through his teeth. How he wished that Sam knew the answer, but he was silent as the grave.

[It is your prison, an old whore in new clothes – make no mistake, son. You and I have been here before, haven’t we? Stay calm son – we’ll get you out of here.]

“Look,” Cora said, “I promise you the video will give you the answers you need, okay? As for your Dad and sister, they are out. They have been out for a long time.” Cora shrugged, “It’s what they do, remember?”

[They aren’t here, you know that – they wouldn’t have brought you out of cryo if they were.]

“No, I don’t.” Seth countered in a whiny tone.

“Come on, I’ll explain as well as I can on the way then.” She turned and started to walk towards an elevator. Not turning to see if Seth followed. “Your father had a vision, he knew war was coming, and he wanted to –“

[Stopitstopitstopitstopitstopit – stop it – stopitstopit stopitstopitstopitstopitstopit!!]

“I know that.” Seth cut her off, “Quit the hero worship.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry. I just never met Alec’s plus child.” Cora said, “So I have no idea what you know or what you recall.”

[Alec Ryders plus child, that is what you are, you will never amount to more. You are caught in a prison of flesh. If that little bitch knew what it meant to be a plus child she would not envy you. You hear it in her voice right? The envy that she has no claim to the great Alec Ryder]

“I know, I know.” Seth sighed, watching as the elevator doors slowly opened revealing a delightfully empty cabin, “I was lucky to even be included.”

[Hahaha yes you are privileged son. You are the unwanted, hidden child of a hero – how about that? So lucky you don’t even know who to thank first.]

“You are lucky you weren’t recycled as non-essential.” Cora said somberly.

“They recycled people?” Seth gasped. “That is just messed up!”

“Depends on how you see it I guess, the plants love the extra fertilizer. Even the dead are a resource in a closed system. ” Cora pushed the button for sub level four. “It’ll take some time to find your way around here, but you’ll get the hang of it, just pay attention to the signs.” The elevator stopped and they walked out and into the hall.

“This is the personnel quarters for the maintenance crew, women in the east corridor, men in the west corridor, and common rooms in the middle. Director Addison does not appreciate that we mingle too much, because the super computer that runs this place,” Cora spat out the word super computer like it was a curse, “Dictates who would be prudent as a co-parent.”

“The damn thing got a dating service?” Seth laughed.

[But not for ass-pirates like you, Seth – not even a hand job in a closet.]

“Something like that. But I guess you’ll learn more about it if your genes are right.” Cora sighed, and gestured towards the door to the men’s wing. “Let’s go. You are in bunk seven, so that would be in the second room, four bunks in each.

“Four people each, in all of these rooms?”

“Light sleeper, huh? Don’t worry, the walls are soundproofed. You wouldn’t even notice a heard of elephants running through the corridors.”

Seth looked up at the sign that said ‘2’ and walked inside, and sure enough four bunks, a small table and a monitor. “The monitor” Cora said, “Is for general information, but also for communicating between floors, it is recommended that you check your messages at least two times a day.” Cora pushed a button, “Your code is EN for engineering and your birth date and year.

“Alright.” Seth turned around and pointed at a locker, “Take it that is mine.”

“Yes.” Cora said, “Should have your personal stuff in it, along with your new Ark uniform.” She smiled, “Same code as before.”

Seth opened the locker and looked inside it. Sure enough there was a pile of data pads he knew was full of hundreds of books each, and his old dog tags. A tacky orange jumpsuit was hanging in the closet along with a pair of boots and a mask, on the inside of the locker door was a see through plastic pocket with a ID card, complete with photo and clip for attachment. “Everything is here.” Cora said looking over Ryder’s shoulder. “Now, take your ID card, and come over here to open your messages, the link to the information video will be there.”

[Aww, your seven inch, 5 level speed dildo isn’t here. I was personally very fond of that thing, it was nothing short of a miracle worker, all that wonderful shame and lust all mingled together in the pit of your stomach, and your dirty fantasies – priceless. I love it when you have no filter Seth, always so collected, always so cold. They took it from your locker! Who do you think got it? Her? She is awfully smug.]

Seth sat down in the chair and clicked on his name out of the four on the start screen, he typed in his password and it opened some sort of simplified email program, which was apparently the only thing it could open. There were two messages, one from Ark 24, and one from A. Ryder. Seth looked at the emails for a moment before he clicked his Dad’s message. A video flickered to life, his father in a dark room and the video quality was really bad, but the sound was fine. “Son,” Alec said in a serious tone, “If you are watching this, it means you are now awake. I have no way of knowing how long they’ll keep you as a sleeper, so still alive or not, I wanted to welcome you to your new life. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry that my weakness became your burden, kid.” And the video cut out.

[Ask her Seth, ask her if she has your dildo.]

Seth just sat and stared at the monitor for a while, “What year is this?” He asked coldly.

[Ask her nasty boy.]

“2337” Cora answered.

“Damn.” Seth breathed through his teeth, “How long have they been awake? My Dad and Sara?”

“A couple of years, like most of us.” Cora answered flatly.

[They left you in cryo, you were supposed to die there.]

“I see.”

“I’m sorry.” Cora said softly, placing a hand on Seth’s shoulder from behind. “Must be difficult for you.”

“Which part?” Seth said coolly, “the fact that over a hundred and fifty years have passed, or being born as a second child in a strictly one child world?”

“Both.” Cora admitted. “Not that it matters much anymore.”

[Oh, it matters, bitch.]

Seth ignored her and clicked the video from Ark 24, a smiling woman came alive on the monitor, she looked like she was either trying to sell them salvation or insurance. “Welcome to your new life as a citizen in Ark 24. The Ark was largely finished in 2185, a masterpiece of technology it was built to house the best humanity had to offer. The two first prototypes were launched into space, none of these were a success, so humanity decided to direct their gaze to the ground under their feet instead of the starts above. It was decided to build an ark on a smaller scale underground. The Ark was such a commercial success that more were built around the world. Sadly the initiatives magnum opus was never finished before war erupted. It was a long exhausting war, which ended in total nuclear eradication of all human life, vegetation and animal life above ground.” Grainy pictures of the wasteland of what would once have been a city flickered over the screen. The woman came back and continued. “Suddenly, the purpose of the Arks were even more serious, and the survival of humanity hinges on their success. The Arks were sealed for a hundred and ten years, just awaiting the green light from the Geiger counters located above, signaling that the above ground had lost so much of it’s radiation that it might be possible to live there once more, to rebuild society. A skeleton crew of roughly a hundred people were assigned to make sure that the Arks never lost power, that the cryo pods were not damaged and that everything would be ready for when the sleepers were ready to wake. The first generation were all plus children the initiative saved from being sent to war, or dying on the surface. They, in turn, were obligated to produce a new generation to run the Ark, and so on until the sleepers were awoken. Unfortunately, it turned out that the Ark was not able to sustain a population of the first wave of sleepers out of cryo in addition to the original Ark bred crew, and an administrative decision was made.” A long list of names ran over the screen. “If any of the names on the screen is your relative or spouse, please contact the Director for a small compensation, which consists of 200 grams of extra food a day in a year.” The picture showed a vast greenhouse with vegetables and smiling people in green jumpsuits carefully collecting said vegetables in white plastic buckets.

Seth turned in his chair and looked up at Cora, “Recycled?”

“I told you, nothing gets wasted.”

Seth returned to watching the woman with the manic smile on the monitor. “Now that you are a proud citizen of Ark 24, your DNA profile has determined your assignment in the community. All positions are equally important, from the trash collectors to the scientists, one cannot function without the other. To uphold your citizenship of Ark 24, you must abide by the work plan presented for you by your superior, failure to do so will have consequences for your stay.” The recording ended, and a list of laws were presented green on black on the screen. Seth sat back in the chair with a deep sigh, “This was not what I expected.”

[You are too dumb to expect anything, son.]

Cora nodded, “Me either, to begin with.”

“Unapproved fraternization” Seth read from the monitor, “What the hell is that even?”

“Alright,” Cora sighed, “Remember that regime of shots we had before cryo? One of those was inhibitors so we cannot breed. All of us are sterile unless the administration chooses you for their uhm, repopulation program.”

[Oh, you remember those shots –  you screamed like a girl.]

“That is fucked up.” Seth mumbled, “But, I suppose that control of the population growth is complete control. But… if we are all artificially sterile, why is there a need of a law against dating?”

[Don’t be an idiot. Control Seth, absolute control – that is what Alec likes]

“Because a romantic attachment will cloud your better judgment.” Cora answered mechanically, though her expression was anything but.

Seth laughed softly. “So, you’re telling me that everyone here is happy with this?”

“No.” Cora answered as she crossed her arms over her chest. “But, they are more afraid of the world outside in the radiation; there are things worse than lack of joy or death.”

[Ask her if she has your dildo!]

“Wait. Back the fuck up. If the sleepers were awoken, it has to mean that there were no more radiation right?”

Cora shook her head and leaned against the wall, staring down at Seth, “In theory, but in reality the radiation is just low enough so you won’t die right away.”

“Then why even look for a new land?”

[So Alec could abandon his own project when he got bored, just like he abandoned you when you weren’t what he wanted. I know about the bitter tears you cried because he didn’t love you, and how many times you tried to make him see you. In the end you didn’t care if he was proud of you anymore, you just wanted him to acknowledge your existence, right?]

“Because the scientists speculate that there might be pockets of non-radioactive areas.”

Seth laughed again, the laugh never made it to his eyes which remained dull and bored, “So the eggheads speculate something, and they send my family outside in the radiation, well, that is just great.”

“Your father and sister have state of the art suits to withstand the radiation.” Cora countered, and when Seth opened his mouth to answer, she held up her hand to silence him. “You got a tour of your bunk, you saw the information video, and now it’s time to get some food, doesn’t that sound good?” She pushed off the wall and opened the door to the corridor. “Come on.”

[Don’t cry Seth, I got you – I will always be here.]

Seth shook his head amused, but got up and followed Cora back up to what he had thought could have been a mess hall, the entire trip there was silent. When they arrived, Cora pointed at a window in the wall, “That is where you get your food, remember to always have your citizen id on you and swipe it here.” She pointed at slot on the wall, “Go ahead.”

Seth unclipped his ID card and swiped it, the little lamp over the window turned green and it made a pleasant little beep. He turned to look at Cora who just smiled “It means that you have not yet gotten your ration.”

A woman pushed a plate of food through the window, she didn’t speak or smile. Seth just took the plate and walked back to a table. The doors on their left opened and a red haired man stepped through. “Ah, there is the chief engineer, I will leave you to him then.” Cora smiled down at Seth who sat at the table. “I hope you settle in smoothly Seth.”

[It looks like vomit.]

Seth just nodded, and looked up at the man who came and sat down opposite of him. “Chief Engineer Brodie.” Gil said holding out a hand across the table for Seth to shake.

“Seth Ryder.” Seth said.

[Look at his creepy smile, he would suck your cock for a fiver – real question is can you get it up?]

“I see that you have prior knowledge of engineering from your army days.” Gil said, looking down at a data pad, “Combat engineering.”

[He knows!]

“Yep.” Seth swallowed a spoonful of the sludge that might be mashed potatoes or something. “Honestly though, I defused bombs, and calculated how to best blow up bridges. I didn’t repair engines.”

“Well it’s more technical experience than most of the team have.” Gil said with a little cynical grin, “No idea how that computer picks people, but if you ask me, I’d swear it does so at random.”

[Imagine him on his knees receiving your baby juice all over his stupid face, wouldn’t that be glorious, you like the idea Seth, I know you – I am you.]

Seth kept eating while Gil and Sam was talking, not even realizing before he started, just how hungry he actually was.

[Warm like his tongue running along your cock.]

“So truth is that this damn thing wasn’t made to run for as long as it has, we’re almost down to repairing things with gaffer tape and chewing gum, but that is just how it is.” Gil said looking down at his data pad again. “Alright, so take a shower and take the night off, I will pick you up at your bunk half past six tomorrow morning and show you where your designated workspace is, please be ready, uniform on and that thousand credit smile.”

[His lips around the crown of your cock, sucking, his long slender fingers breaching your asshole – ah the sweet pressure, can you feel it? Are you getting hard? You dirty, dirty boy.]

Ryder looked up at Gil for a second, crossing his legs under the table to hide his unwanted growing erection, casually he took a sip of his water. “Excuse me.”

“Come on.” Gil laughed, “It’s not every day we get a goddamn VIP in engineering.”

[Ooooh, yes Gil, fuck me with your tongue, oh yes, like that – oooh aaaah, fuck…]

Ryder mirrored Gil’s cynical smile but said nothing, there was nothing he could say really, and all his energy went into crushing his erection. Goddamn Sam forcing those images into his head, Gil wasn’t even attractive by a long shot. He could swear that he heard Sam laughing in the distance.

Gil left, and when Seth was done eating, he dumped his paper plate in the recycling bin, and returned to his quarters, funny he was tired after sleeping for over a hundred years. When he stepped into his room there was another guy sitting at the terminal, the man turned and looked at Seth. “The new guy?” He asked.

[Careful, he is one of them – Like Sara, liars and backstabbers.]

“Yes.” Seth said with a little smile, not sure if he should ask whatever happened to the ‘old guy’.

The guy got up and shoot Seth’s hand, “I’m Liam.”

“Seth.” Seth said.

“The Ryder plus, right?” Liam said, and when he saw the stone expression on Seth’s face he laughed a little nervously, “Sorry. It’s just that you look nothing like Sara.”

[You don’t even deserve a first name, Sara told him about you, look at the way his tiny evil eyes are looking at you – he is sizing you up.]

“Yeah, the Ryder plus. That would be me.” Seth sighed. “Listen, all I really want is to have a shower and a shave, where do I go? I seem to have gotten the light tour.”

“Ah,” Liam smiled confident again at the shift of conversation. “Third door on your left.” He sidestepped nervously for a second, “Whatever, come on let me show you.” He walked out the door with Seth right behind him.

[Careful Seth!]

They stepped into the bath, it had ten shower heads and each shower head had a card swipe like the mess hall window had, “You swipe your ID card here, and it will give you three minutes every third day, pretty easy to remember, you know, three and three.”

Seth looked at the shower, nodding. “Awful lot of rationing and swiping cards.” He mumbled.

“You have no idea.” Liam sighed.

-*-

The next day Seth was woken with a start when an insistent alarm started screaming through the loudspeakers in the hall. “Good morning Sunshine.” Liam laughed as Seth almost fell from his cot. He gestured to two other men, a short blond one and a taller bald man, “This is Morris and Frank – Guys, this is Seth.” He still chuckled at Seth’s chocked expression when he turned to open his locker.

“The infamous Ryder plus.” Morris said, Frank nodding. “Welcome to Ark 24.”

“Don’t be such dicks.” Liam grinned, “Come on Seth, you need to get your suit on and get moving, and don’t worry about the morning alarm, you’ll get used to it.”

[Don’t be fooled, even if you are dumber than a bag of dicks – he is not your friend, and he would murder you in cold blood if he could.]

“If you say so.” Seth mumbled as he made it for his locker. He slipped on the orange jumpsuit that said ‘engineering 07’ on the back. He looked down himself, “I look like a fucking convict.”

[Because you are a prisoner, of the ark, of your genes, of your flesh – of your own shame and lies… oh, you know what I’m talking about.]

“Whoever designed these coveralls had a terrible sense of humor that’s for sure.” Liam chimed in. “Grab your mask, always remember to take your ID, and lets go. Your stop is on my way, so I can take you there.”

[I will never do it again Sir, please don’t send me there! Please I’m begging you!]

“Great.” Seth sighed.

“Gotta forgive the guys, you’re something pretty rare.” Liam said in a hushed tone as they walked to the elevator. “There are unicorns and then there’s the Ryder twin.”

[I remember you crying and screaming as they drove you away again, handcuffed and sedated. I was there for you then, remember? And I am here for you now.]

“Why?” Seth shrugged, “I mean I know that everyone knows who my father and Sara are, but –“

[Alec just wanted to sweep his crazy son under the carpet, hide you, and forget you]

“Seriously?” Liam rose a brow.

“Yes.” Seth sneered which made everyone else in their different colors coveralls and jumpsuits turn and look at him.

“Are you kidding?” Someone with a green jumpsuit said, “You’re a plus child, the last of your kind, man.”

Seth looked from the woman who spoke to Liam, “I’m wh-what?”

[Are you stupid or something? No wait don’t answer that question. You are the last unwanted child in the world, how does that make you feel? Feels like you are still alive.]

“No other plus kid made it to the Arks permanent rosters.” Liam said coldly, “You are the only one, of course people are going to know who you are.” He pointed at the plus tattooed on Seth’s neck, “Pretty obvious.”

[Oh, the tattoo, given to you before you were a toddler. You might not remember it, but I do – I remember everything you wish to forget.]

“There are no others?” Seth asked in a disappearing voice, he was floored and too confused to get angry. “But how?”

“They were barred from getting cryo pods.” The woman answered.

“So parents had to chose to leave them behind?” Seth’s eyes widened, “That’s atrocious.”

[Oh, you know the parents chose a long time ago. They decided to bring forth a life that was worth less than nothing unless the original child died. Therefor the plus term, you were backup, nothing more, nothing less.]

“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a hard call for most parents, you know that Seth.” Liam said softly placing a friendly hand on Seth’s shoulder to calm him. “You know most parents gave their plus children to the government to raise and use.”

[Don’t touch him! Don’t touch me.]

Seth just nodded. Suddenly the words in his father’s video made sense, that his mistake would be Seth’s burden.

“Look friend, I know that your father used his influence to give you a cryo pod around regulations. Some here might resent that fact.” Liam said softly. “Way I see it, you were lucky to be born a Ryder. Don’t let people’s shit get you down.”

[Look at the idiots, thinking you led a charmed life – Show them your battle scars, show them where you tried to end us.]

“I don’t even know what to say.” Seth looked down at his feet, but all in all it made even less sense that they would wake him of all people than it did just moments ago.

“Give them time, they’ll come around.” Liam said as he guided Seth into the elevator.

[Remember that? You were never the clever one Seth. Remember how your mother cried, and your father wanted to send you away because staying made it worse for everyone. They never saw your pain, did they? They saw their fucking status, and felt cursed with a twin. They should have killed you in the womb.]

Seth didn’t look anyone in the elevator in the eyes, he kept his head down and wondered how many of them had to leave children, siblings or lovers topside, and he got one of the pods meant for one of the ‘worthy firstborn’ children. He knew that it had not always been so, Alec had given him an explanation when he was a kid and didn’t understand why he couldn’t go to the same school or go to the same sports clubs as her. Alec had sat him down and explained to him that because Sara was born moments before him, it made her their rightful child, and to prevent too many people on earth that was vastly overpopulated already then, a rule was made that everyone should only have one child, and most in Seth’s position were sent off at birth.

He knew he was privileged to have parents that almost cared in their own way, and influence enough so he didn’t have to be sent away to an institution at birth. He got to live in their family home, his presents almost as nice as his sisters, and his chores were almost the same as hers. At home their parents attempted to divide sun and moon equally, but once outside they had to abide by social norms. He was never invited to banquets, family outings, dinners, birthdays, weddings or anything public.

“Liam?”

“Yes.”

“What about you? Did you leave loved ones topside?” Seth asked in a near whisper.

[Of course he did! And you got one of their pods, you ungrateful little shit.]

“I did, but it was just different. They chose not to come.” Liam said with a little sad smile.

Seth walked silently behind Liam through the puke green run down corridors of maintenance. It was a far cry from the sterile look of the upper levels. “Alright this is your stop.” Liam said and pointed into a large room full of water tubes and measuring instruments. “See you later okay?”

“Sure.” Seth managed a smile.

He stepped tentatively into the room and scouted for the red haired bloke he had talked to yesterday. When he finally saw him, he walked over and smiled as Brodie waved him over. “You found it.” Gil said with a little grin, “Alright let me show you what needs to be done.” He pointed over to the massive machine in the middle of the room, “This mother controls the water recycling process.” He looked over at Seth, “No clean water is available from outside, so everything gets cleaned and filtered so it’s safe for consumption again.” He nodded to himself, “We collect it all, from every ounce of sewerage through to dew up in the greenhouses. You know how I told you this wasn’t built to last this long right?”

[You think he is a screamer? I think he is a screamer.]

“You did.” Seth said as he looked at the intricate machine, hoping he wasn’t asked to make heads or tails of it.

“Your job will be to stabilize water pipes around the Ark.” Brodie said as he handed him a strange walkie-talkie with a display. “It’s a short range communicator, but it works for the entire Ark. When a problem arrives, you will be directed to the problem spot. And you fix it – simple right?”

[Oh Seth, fuck me! Harder! Faster! I love your cock – he is definitely a screamer.]

“Suppose so.” Seth took the tool belt which Brodie handed him, “You can call the maintenance secretary to have your card open places where you don’t have clearance if you need it, just turn this knob,” Brodie turned it and the display now said ‘dispatch’, “Hold this button in to speak and remember to let it go again so others can answer.” He turned the knob back so the display said ‘water treatment 07’ “This is my frequency.”

[You could always fuck him with a monkey wrench, he probably wouldn’t mind much if you got him all hot and wet first. It would be glorious, cold metal ramming in and out of his tight sphincter, imagine it Seth. Him moaning in shame – you know what that is like kiddo. Remember that? Cause I do. I remember all those things you want to forget, son. And I remember all your shameful sobbing orgasms – pussy boy.]

Seth stood there and stared at Brodie, not sure if he should mention that he didn’t know the first thing about repairing water pipes, or knew his way around. But he had a sneaking suspicion that pointing out that the super computer was wrong, might not be the best idea, so he thought he’d go with the flow, and hopefully a logical solution would present itself. He looked over his shoulder at the security standing at the door, yeah definitely a bad idea.

-*-

month went by and Seth was relieved that he had been able to wing whatever work had been thrown at him. He swiped his card and received a completely biodegradable tray with a drink of water and some porridge he couldn’t make sense of, but he was too hungry to care. How he already missed actual food on an actual plate, the water tasted like chlorine, like when he had been a kid and went to the public pool. He sat down and dug into his porridge watching the muted show on the big screen at the end of the mess hall, it was some stupid daytime show, he could almost hear the fake laughter even with no sound.

“Ryder?” a voice said as they sat down opposite him.

Seth looked at the newcomer, and smiled. The young man opposite of him was the first offbeat person he had seen, flamboyant was the word that came to him. “Yes.” He said with a little grin, “Who’s asking.”

[Would you look at that! You know that twinks are bad news Seth – Think son, think!]

“Oh, I’m Clancy.” Clancy said with a little smile to mirror Seth’s. “Kitchen personnel, so how is your sludge?”

Seth actually laughed at this, “Do I look like a food critic?”

[He is bad news, he knows!]

Clancy leaned in over the table and in a hushed voice said “No, but you do look a lot like your Dad, there is no mistaking those eyes anywhere.”

“Oh wow, straight to it huh?” Seth shook his head amused.

[Seth don’t]

“Oh, sorry.” Clancy sat back in his seat. “I didn’t mean to-“

Seth took a sip of his chlorinated water and smiled wide at the kid. “Hey, I’m just saying you might want to work on your technique.”

“I would never.” Clancy whispered, “It’s unapproved fraternization to make a pass at you. So sorry if you thought that’s what I was doing.”

“I hoped that was what you did.” Seth said calmly, “That would at least be human, and amusing.”

[Don’t ignore me Seth, I will make you recall that time you were high on red sand and fucked Alec’s business partners – for three days. You had to get stitches, remember that?]

Clancy hushed him with a finger to his lips, “Don’t say that.”

“Okay.” Seth mumbled, Clancy’s finger still on his mouth.

[Bite him! He is lying, it’s a trap Seth – don’t ignore me! Fine fuck you!]

“I have something for you that Alec entrusted to me, and I promised to give it to you when you were awakened. But we can’t talk here,” Clancy smiled as he removed his fingers from Seth’s lips. “So meet me up here in the kitchen after your shift ends, there’s an utility room with no surveillance.”

“But…”

“Don’t question it muffin, just come meet me.” Clancy’s eyes was hard but his smile soft and welcoming. “Please.”

[Remember how you fucked them to spite Alec? How you had to do so much red sand to actually go through with it, that your nose bled and you threw up? And do you remember how angry he was when one of them tried to blackmail him? You did look pretty all fucked out, with carpet burns on your knees, and red sand in your face. Do you remember son? You are their enemy, you always were.]

“Alright.” Seth said with a little intrigued smile.

Clancy got up from the table and walked back to the kitchen, leaving Seth alone by the table. He looked around the mess hall, some people were talking but most people were just eating not even making eye contact with anyone else. Suppose that was what the big screen was for, so it wasn’t weird to not speak.

Seth cleaned off his plate and drank the last water before he left the mess hall, his mind reeling, wondering what it was Alec could possibly have to tell him which couldn’t be said in the vid he got on his terminal. Sam was silent, but his mind flooded with images so vivid it made him sick to the core, Sam had been right, he didn’t want to remember that weekend, he had carefully buried it and locked it up somewhere in his memories where it would never be found again. And yet here it was, as clear as ever. Seth paled “Fuck you too!” He whispered into thin air.

-*-

The mess hall was dark and eerie without the television running or the lights on. The only illumination came from the exit signs. Seth leaned against a table and looked over towards the kitchen. Was Clancy full of shit? Was Sam right? He could be. A shiver went down his spine as the paranoia set in.

“Ryder!”

Seth turned around to see Clancy stand in a door at the far end, waving him over.

“Hurry!”

Getting up Seth walked briskly towards the door and Clancy, still not sure he should have come here at all. What if this was a trap? Pretty convenient really, that someone he had never heard of should go through great lengths to give him information.

Clancy all but pulled Seth into the utility room. “Jeesh, could you be any slower?” He frowned, “Just hope no one saw you on the surveillance.”

“So what is –“

Clancy hushed him and pulled Seth away from the door, “Keep your fucking voice down.” He hissed in a whisper. “I don’t want to lose my privileges because of you.”

“Sorry?” Seth whispered. “Can you at least tell me why we’re playing cloak and daggers?”

Clancy looked over at the door and pulled Seth further towards the end wall. “There are worse things in Ark 24 than the food.” He said with a little smile. “Trust me.”

Seth nodded.

“Your Dad saved me, I owe him my life. But that’s not the same as me being eager to throw it away.” Clancy stared directly at Seth. “I realize you have no reason to believe me, but hear me out anyway.”

“Promise.” Seth whispered.

Clancy took a deep breath, “This whole place is a lie. Your Dad isn’t coming back, and they woke you up in an effort to make him return. You’re their bargaining chip Seth. And should they fail, you are nothing but a plus kid. I think Addison believes the real problem is Sara having gone after your father since she has not returned either.” Clancy took a deep breath.

“Back the fuck up, I thought they left together.” Seth said.

“Shhh! For fucks sake!” Clancy sneered, “Not so loud.”

Seth sighed, “Sorry.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed again even deeper. “Explain this to me like I’ve just woken up from a hundred year long cryo sleep.”

Clancy’s lips were a fine line of annoyance, but he nodded. “Your Dad was the pathfinder, he was supposed to find us the golden lands to colonize. But he told me that Addison wasn’t interested in finding the golden lands, she was interested in establishing trade routes with the outside.” Clancy nodded to himself, “The outside isn’t dangerous, it’s just what we are told.”

“Go on.”

“Your Dad left on a mission, and after a year went by and he didn’t return – Addison sent out Sara to find him. And when she did not return in due time either, she ordered you awoken. I don’t know why, but your father saw it coming. He knew what she was capable of.”

“So you think she will send me after Sara?”

Clancy shook his head, “No, you got invaluable bargaining value, and also a set of unique genes.”

“Sorry to disappoint, but I hardly think my Dad would return for me.” Seth whispered, “Sara sure as shit won’t.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Clancy said, “I’m quite sure they both love you in their own way, and that is exactly what Addison is counting on.”

“My Dad’s last words to me were that he was sorry that his burden became mine. I think I know what that means now.” Seth leaned against a utility shelf unit, looking down at his feet in the dark. “He left me here.”

Clancy shook his head. “That’s where I come in.”

Seth laughed a little but nodded, amused by the slightly offended but serious expression of the young man. “So what can you do for me Clancy?”

“I can get you out of here.” Clancy said, “But it will cost you.”

Seth chuckled, “First off, why would I want to leave?”

Clancy just stared at him in the dark, “Are you prepared to live out your life here? Looking over your shoulder all the time. There are a lot of angry people here, angry that they left their loved ones to die, and you – a plus child – got a cryopod, just because your Dad is ‘someone’. Even the few friends you will manage to make here will not be enough, and one day you will be shanked, could be in the shower, could be in your bed, could be when your back is turned at work. Could be strychnine in your food… could be anything and anytime.”

Seth bit his lip, he knew that a plus child had few allies before, and this – this was unknown territory, Clancy could be right, and Sam was remarkably silent on this whole matter. “I’m listening.” He mumbled.

“Look Seth, I owe your Dad a lot, but I owe you jack shit.” Clancy said with a sneer. “So it’s gonna cost you.”

“What’s the charge?” Seth asked, shaking his head.

“You have security clearance to the water pumps.” Clancy whispered stepping closer to Seth. “It’s ten minutes of your life, and we’re all free.”

Seth narrowed his eyes, staring suspiciously at Clancy, “How?”

“The water purification chip, it is the size of your palm.” Clancy took a deep breath, and licked his lips nervously. “It controls the water purification to the entire Ark, and without that – well the Ark would have no water, which in turn would force Addison to let people leave, or die.”

“You want me to steal the damn water purification chip? You must be crazy.”

“Look Seth, I am taking a huge chance talking to you.” Clancy said looking Seth square in the eyes, “Not all of us are happy here, some of us are desperate to get out, but it’s too dangerous as long as Addison holds all the cards.”

Seth crossed his arms over his chest, “Sounds like I am the one taking a huge chance for your agenda.”

“True.” Clancy nodded, “But you are not doing it for me, this is your Dad’s plan, this is also why he made sure the computer would place you in engineering.”

Frowning Seth signed deeply. “Of course he rigged the game.”

“But for the greater good.” Clancy added quickly, “Addison is batshit crazy, and will fight tooth and nail for her self-instated little Nazi regime.” Clancy placed a hand on Seth’s shoulder and squeezed softly, “Please Seth, we need you for this.”

“Whats in it for me?”

Clancy stepped closer so their chests almost touched in the dark, “Besides your life?” Clancy whispered with a little smile.

[He’s lying, he is trying to manipulate you – Seth, wake up.]

Seth arched an eyebrow, “Are you flirting with me, or do you just have no concept of personal space?” As Clancy’s smile faltered, a cruel smile widened on Seth’s lips.

“I’m sorry.” Clancy breathed and stepped back, “I just thought –“

“Sure you did.” Seth hissed, he had heard enough of this shit. This entire thing was absolutely crazy, Addison, Clancy, Ark 24, Alec…

“Your Dad was so sure that you’d help us liberate the people of Ark 24, but apparently he was wrong.” Clancy mumbled sourly and turned to leave. Seth caught his wrist before he could make it out the door.

[Kill him, Kill him now! Now!]

“Alec thinks that I owe him.” Seth spat, “And you think I will follow through with your little rebellion because you wiggle your ass in front of me.” Seth squeezed Clancy’s wrist hard, “You are both wrong. I am not his fucking pet, and I’m not Sara either.”

“Please let go.” Clancy squirmed as his wrist started to throb, which only made Seth squeeze tighter.

“Like fuck I will.” Seth said pulling Clancy closer to him. “If I let you go then you’re gonna run back to your little friends and make sure some fucker stabs me in the showers.” Seth’s smile widened even more “What do you take me for?”

[Yes! Snap his arm, make him hurt, make him bleed.]

“I’m sorry Seth, I didn’t mean to…” Clancy was almost forced to his knees as Seth twisted his wrist.

“Of course you did,” Seth said softly, his cruel smile in place. “Fuck you, fuck Alec, fuck Sara, fuck Addison and fuck this place. I’ll get out alright, but it’s downright insulting to think I need you or your fucking friends.” Seth twisted Clancy’s arm again making him twist to the floor. “I could kill you right now, and no one would be the wiser.”

[I love you Seth! Make me proud son.]

“There are cameras in the mess hall.” Clancy managed to groan out, his eyes shut tight in pain.

“Which saw us go in here.” Seth finished, “But you see, I might be a plus child, but I’m still a Ryder. You are not.” Seth laughed a little, “You have no idea how far a name like that will get you, no matter the implications.” He leaned down a little while he pushed Clancy flatter against the floor. “My Dad did everything to keep me out of trouble, he made paperwork go missing, he bribed judges and police, he sent me to boarding school, reform school, the army – he cared alright, cared about how I would reflect on his righteous fucking family name that is.”

“I’m sorry.” Clancy whimpered, his voice shaking.

“Sure you are.” Seth mumbled. “Are you listening to me Clancy, like really listening?”

“Yes.”

[Do it, do it for me.]

“Good.” Seth said. “If you ever as much as fucking look in my direction; I will kill you, if you ever breathe my name; I will kill you, and if anyone tries to attack me; I will kill you.” Seth gave Clancy’s arm another cruel twist making the young man cry out in pain. “Do you fucking understand?”

“Yes.. yes.. oh God, yes.”

“Good.” Seth let go of Clancy’s hand. “It was nice to chat to you, I’m glad we understand each other.”

“You are fucking crazy.” Clancy whimpered, cradling his arm, “I think you broke my wrist.”

Seth turned around in the dark and looked down at Clancy, “I’m not crazy, I’m a survivor – and if there is one single fucking thing life taught me it’s that people like you, handsome boys with bleeding hearts and a righteous cause – are dangerous.”

[What are you waiting for? Kill him! He will tell on us, he will lie, he will get us punished.]

Seth turned around to leave, but then he turned again taking a step towards Clancy, making the young man flinch. Seth prodded Clancy with his boot, “Maybe I will take the water chip, maybe I won’t – it won’t be for your perfect ass, and it sure as shit won’t be for your ridiculous little revolution… it will be because I want to see this shit burn.” Seth shrugged, “We’ll just have to see won’t we?” He winked to the silent man on the ground, “Have a nice night.” And with that he turned and left the utility closet and entered the mess hall. Seth felt like whistling but he didn’t.

[Ah yes, make them pay, make them burn, burn.]

-*-

The next weeks were blissfully silent, predictable and boring. Seth had seen Clancy around, but to Seth’s amusement, the young man had not even looked at him and had left the room as soon as he entered. He hadn’t encountered any trouble either, but Seth wondered how many, if any, friends that Clancy had. Just because it was silent now, didn’t mean that it would stay silent. Thinking of it, maybe a little too silent. Not even Sam has been above a murmur in the background. Maybe he was content for now?

Seth walked down another puke green corridor, he saw Cora approach him from the far end. “Ryder!” she called. Seth stopped, put down his tool box and looked from Cora to the blinking, dimmed light fixture on the wall. “Cora.” He said politely, rolling his shoulder sighing deeply.

“Addison wants to see you.” Cora said. “Something regarding unapproved fraternization, do you know anything about that?”

[I told you, he would rat on us – You should listen to me, I love you, I am you.]

“I might.” Seth said with a little smile, “Pretty sure you got me on tape, what’s the point of lying.”

“True.” Cora said with a swift nod, she relaxed in her posture and pointed at the toolbox. “You might want to bring that, otherwise it could go missing, another infringement you don’t need.”

[Play along, find out what he said, play their game. We need to know what they know.]

Seth picked up the toolbox and slowly followed Cora down the claustrophobic corridor.

“Why did you go and do that?” Cora asked in a hushed voice.

“He’s got a cute ass?” Seth answered coyly, picking up pace to keep up with Cora.

“Goddammit Ryder.” Cora chuckled while trying to keep a straight face.

Seth just shrugged, and grinned.

Cora knocked at Addison’s door before swiping her card to open it. Inside sat Addison behind her desk looking like a thunderstorm, and Clancy sat at a chair his hand in a cast. The color drained from his face when Seth came through the door. “Ryder is here, Ma’am.”

[You should have strangled that little shit, and pissed on his corpse.]

“Sit.” Addison said, and Seth silently complied. Cora stepped inside and stood by the door, hand on her gun.

“Mister Ryder and Mister Arquist; We have proof of the two of you broke one of the most important rules of Ark 24, what do you have to say for yourself.”

[Die bitch.]

Clancy just looked down at his feet, and Seth smiled awkwardly. “Sorry Ma’am?!”

“Sorry? Is that really the best you’ve got Ryder?”

“Eh… yes Ma’am.” Seth said mirroring Clancy, thinking that Addison wanted them to feel sorry.

“It is a cardinal rule here, that only relationships approved by the computer may occur. Relationships that benefit the greater good, as in good folks with outstanding genes to carry over in offspring.” Addison said, tapping her fingers ferociously on the table.

[So no anal sex? Shame that – you seem to be rather fond of that, aren’t you Seth?]

“Yes Ma’am.” Clancy mumbled.

“What you did was certainly not approved.” Addison said, her voice low and venomous.

“Yes Ma’am.” Clancy mumbled again.

Addison gave Seth a bored glare. “You can’t claim ignorance, so why would you damage the collective greater good like this?”

[You should have fucked every orifice he has for this – and you should have made him beg for it.]

“The only thing I damaged was him,” Seth said with a dirty grin, quickly adding. “Ma’am.”

“I will not tolerate your snide comments Ryder.” Addison said.

[And I will not tolerate your ugly ass bitch face – you are going down you deformed cunt.]

“No Ma’am, sorry Ma’am.” Seth said, resuming to look at his feet.

Addison blinked and then started tapping her fingers again. “I think you two might need some re-educating.”

Both Clancy and Seth looked up at her wordlessly.

[What the fuck is re-educating? Like when they tried to separate us at Twin Rivers?]

“You will enter a re-education program to stop this nonsense.” Addison said as she pushed a button to call in more guards. “You will stay in the re-education program till you realize that it is wrong to go against the greater good of Ark 24, and that the survival of your fellow man hinges on everyone following the simple guidelines that you two chose to ignore.”

“Ma’am?” Seth asked, feeling the fake breeze of recycled air from the hall on his neck as the door opened to let In a handful of armed guards. “One question please.”

Clancy looked over at Seth for the first time, pale and frightened.

“You make it sound like I set fire to the greenhouse, all I did was fuck him in a closet.” Seth never heard the answer cause he was knocked out cold by a rifle butt to the back of his head.

-*-

When Seth woke he had no concept of time, it was dark and it smelled weird. He sat up in the dark and a small, weak motion censor lamp turned on. It looked like a room, but it also looked like a cell. He didn’t have to check to know the door was locked. That was it! Addison and her shit were going down, he didn’t know how, or when – but it was going to happen.

[You just had to be a smart ass didn’t you?]

He ran a hand over the bump on the back of his head, it was sore but had not broken the skin. He could recognize Clancy’s haircut and the pitiful uniform he wore on the form in the corner. “Clancy?” he asked not sure if he was awake.

“Yes.”

“Why did you do this man?” Seth asked.

Clancy sat up slowly on the low bunk, looking at Seth in the dim orange light. “I didn’t.”

[He’s lying.]

Seth stared at the door and nodded, “Alright, but how would she know about the closet.”

Shrugging Clancy just sighed, “Told you, she has spies everywhere.”

“Who did you tell?” Seth said as he inched a little closer to Clancy.

“No one. I told the nurse that I fell over my own feet on the stairs.” Clancy shrugged, “I think she believed it – no, I think someone is keeping tabs on you my friend.”

[Hold him down and fuck him raw – he can’t fight you off. Remember how that felt, you fucking asked for it you little slut. Fuck him until he is telling the truth.]

Seth looked thoughtful for a moment and nodded, “Maybe.”

“I thought you said your name could get you out of anything.” Clancy said sourly, idly picking at his cast on his wrist.

“Absolutely.” Seth said as he settled at Clancy’s feet, looking up at the young man. “Another plus child had been shot.” He paused with a little smile, “And here I am.”

[Let him taste the fear, let him feel the shame.] 

Clancy smiled back, his smile was nervous but amused. “That you are.”

Seth looked at the cast and then up at Clancy, “Are you okay?”

“No.” Clancy mumbled.

“I’m sorry man.” Seth said gingerly touching the cast with his fingertips, “didn’t mean to break it, honestly.”

[You are such a pretty liar, boy.]

Clancy looked down at Seth with a frown, “Sure you did.”

“I didn’t.” Seth said, “If I had wanted that, I would have snapped it when I had the chance.” He shrugged, “I just wanted to make you stop spewing bullshit.”

“It was not bullshit.” Clancy said, pulling his arm back from Seth, and his feet up from the floor.

[Those are some mighty fine lips for choking on your cock, vomit and sperm in one ungodly mix.]

“Come on now.” Seth laughed, “Where is your resistance now? You are stuck in here with me awaiting whatever the fuck Addison cooked up. I have no love for her, or anyone here really. But there is no way in hell I am risking my life to take out Alec’s garbage.”

“Forget your Dad, this is about everyone who wants to leave this place.” Clancy said in a listlessly resting his cheek on his knees. “But if you didn’t care at all, why didn’t you give me up in earlier, why did you let them believe we were there for sex?”

[It would be slick and warm like a hooker with no teeth.]

“Because fuck Addison, that’s why.” Seth stated.

“Good enough for me.” Clancy mumbled.

-*-

Days passed and the only interaction there had been from the outside; was food being shoved through the slot in the door by armed soldiers.

Clancy was laying on his side staring into the wall, “I think they are gonna leave us here to rot.”

Seth picked up the dry bread and took a bite, he walked over to the cot and pushed Clancy’s legs out of the way so he could sit. “Don’t say that.” He said softly, placing a hand on Clancy’s shoulder. “If that was true, why feed us? Wouldn’t they just recycle us then?”

“Maybe, I don’t know.” Clancy whispered.

“I admit, I can’t really see the reform in this.” Seth sighed.

[They are waiting for you to break, you know that.]

Clancy laughed mirthlessly. “They will leave us here till we go mad, and then use us as a cautionary tale for the rest – look at the zombie, yeah, he fucked someone in a closet.” Clancy shifted on the cot, “Makes me sorta wish we had. Because at least I would have had that to justify this shit.”

[Makes me wish we had wrecked his little virgin hole too.]

Seth chuckled softly, “I can rectify that.”

“Stop.” Clancy elbowed Seth softly. “You’re not funny.”

“We need to get out of here Clancy, and to do that we need to work together.” Seth whispered, leaning in over Clancy to whisper closer to his ear. “Do that for me and I will steal your fucking chip.”

[Don’t you dare, boy!]

Clancy turned around to his back and looked up at Seth in the weird orange light, “Swear?”

“I swear.” Seth whispered, gently brushing some of Clancy’s hair from his forehead.

[Are you defying me? You little shit! Who the fuck do you think you are? You are nothing but a sad little accident. A disgrace. Testing any limit, trying every fucked up thing you could think of to take away the nightmares and fill the void inside you. You are fucking crazy, that is what you are – completely fucking mental. They should have given you a lobotomy and called it a day.]

“We could knock the guards out and leave them in here, That would give us time.” Clancy whispered, shifting so Seth didn’t feel so heavy on his legs that was still folded under his weight.

“We don’t know what time of day it is, so we don’t know if it would be enough.” Seth whispered back.

“We could call Cora over their walkie.” Clancy said with a smile. “She’s one of the others loyal to your Dad.”

[Fine, see if I care.]

“That might work.” Seth said, “And you are sure she won’t just report us?”

“Positive.” Clancy said. “But first we have to get them in here.”

Seth’s smile grew, “I could fuck you against the door, that would get their attention.”

Clancy looked mortified, “Are you gonna fight them with your pants around your ankles and a boner?”

Seth laughed “Yeah, that might be a really bad idea.”

“Pretty sure banging the door won’t help” Clancy said sitting up.

“Help! Fire! Is pretty much out of the question too.” Seth looked thoughtful for a moment and the turned to Clancy, “Okay you lay down and look like you’re passed out, can you do that?” Seth stood up and gently ruffled Clancy’s hair, “No matter what you hear, you just gotta trust me.”

Clancy just stared at Seth for a moment and then nodded, “Alright.”

Seth walked to the door, and banged it, “Guards! Hey man! Wake up!” He looked over his shoulder and Clancy was on the floor looking like he was out cold. He banged again, “I need to speak to Cora, I have information on a conspiracy against the Ark! Yo!”

At last a guard came to the door,  and opened the priest hole, “What’s this about a conspiracy?”

“Like I am telling you, fucking idiot.” Seth banged the door with the palm of his hand. “I’m only telling Cora.”

The guard looked like he was thinking of it. “No.”

“Right now he is knocked out, but soon he’ll wake up. And when he kills me you’ll never find out until it too late. Simple as that.” Seth said coldly staring the guard square in the eye through the tiny hole in the door.

“Get a grip Ryder, that little girl ain’t gonna kill you.”

“Oh really?” Seth said, “I gotta sleep sometime, right? Come on, man.”

The guard was silent, thinking over his options. “Alright, I will call her, but it’s on you, and it better be good.”

“I swear it is.” Seth said with a smile. Silently gloating that Sam was wrong, Clancy was just a scared boy that was all – and Seth still had some humanity left.

-*-

Thirty minutes later and a lot of pacing up and down the floor, the door swung open and Cora stood in the door with two guards. “I got this.” She said and stepped inside, leaving the guards in the corridor. She slammed the door, and turned looking at Seth. “So?”

Clancy slowly got up from the floor. “Cora,” He said rolling his shoulders and head, sore from being on the floor for so long. “We need to get out of here.”

Cora looked at them both, “Alright.” Her gaze lingered on Seth as if she tried to read his intentions from his body language.

“Completely reformed.” Seth said stiffly.

Cora blinked bored, “I don’t believe you.”

“You don’t believe that I am reformed, or just in general.” Seth asked with badly hidden annoyance, he eyed the door behind her, wondering if he could make it before she had a chance to react. After all she was one woman, they were two – or were they? He turned his head and looked at Clancy.

“I’m ready.” Clancy said and held out his arm, much to Seth’s surprise.

“Alright.” Cora said and pulled a bright yellow armband from her pocket, “This must stay on your right arm at all times.” She said, “It will stay on till you are told otherwise.”

“Yes.” Clancy said as she wrapped the armband around his right upper arm.

[I fucking told you so!]

“Failure to comply will land you back here in this cell.”

“Understood.”

“You can leave and resume your duties Mister Arquist.” Cora said, smiling as Clancy hurried past her and out the door without as much as looking over his shoulder at Seth.

“What about me then?” Seth asked.

[They got you where they want you; you little shit. You played right into their plan a sucker – want me to repeat that I told you so?]

“You stay here till I believe you are reformed.” Cora said. “The first time Clancy was here, he stayed for well past ten months, and you are only two months in, Ryder.” She smiled, “You got plenty time to go, and if I were you, it’d think things over.”

“What?”

“You heard me boy.” Cora struck out and grabbed Seth by his chin, forcing his head upwards. “You are staying here till I believe you, end of. This is not a negotiation.” Cora let go with a push that sent Seth stumbling backwards.

Seth regained his footing just in time to see her leave the cell. “That little motherfucker!” Seth sneered as it dawned on him what had just happened, and Sam was laughing and cheering… Clancy had gotten the drop on him, that would never happen again. Clancy knew that Cora would do this. But, if he had known that, did it mean that everything he had ever said was a lie? Did he even know Alec Ryder? Had he been setting up Seth from the beginning? If so why? He should have strangled that little shit when he had had the chance.

“You are all gonna burn,” Seth mumbled, “Every fucking one of you. Fuck!” He kicked the wall. “He was right, and you are all going to die!” And somewhere behind his fury, Sam was cheering and dancing.

-*-

[Want me to sing you a lullaby?]

Seth smiled in the dark, his eyes trained on the slight stripe of light that escaped from the corridor to his cell under the door. “Yes, please.” Seth whispered.

[Hush, little baby, don’t say a word…]

Seth’s smile widened and he closed his eyes, “I always loved it when you sang that song for me.”

[Sam’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…]

“And if that mockingbird don’t sing,”

[Sam’s  gonna buy you a diamond ring…]

Seth curled up in a fetal position on the floor of his cell. “I’m sorry, I should have listened.” He whispered.

[You promised yourself to never be in a cell again, and look where you are, son.]

“I know.” Seth frowned, “I just wanted it to be true so bad, I wanted to believe that he liked me, and that we were getting out – I…”

[No, one likes you, no one loves you – I love you, I am here – I am always here, no matter how much you lie to yourself.]

“I wish they did.” Seth mumbled with a sorrowful tone. “Am I really that unlovable?”

[You did some really bad things Seth, you are not a good person. Don’t lie to yourself, you know I am right.]

Seth’s smile returned in the dark, “I know, I just wish I was good people.”

[No reform program in the world can take the bad out of you; you were born with it.]

“Yeah, suppose so.”

Seth sighed, “Would you sing to me again?”

[Of course.]

Seth closed his eyes listening to Sam singing, ‘you were born with it’ was what the doctor at the Twin Rivers had said. No redeeming qualities what so ever, incurable even. He remembered his naked cell, white on white – not even a pillow case was allowed. He remembered his mother crying and his father giving him a stern look, like he was trying to call him out on his bullshit. Seth recalled that look in Alec’s eyes which he dubbed ‘no son of mine’, it was beyond disappointed, it was more like devoid of life, love and hope. His father’s dead stare was worse than any cell they could stick him in, and his mother’s tears just pissed him off – why was she crying? She stuck him in this hell hole to begin with.

-*-

Two more months of solitary found Seth in the corner of the cell mumbling to himself and scratching ‘burn’ over, and over again into the wall. He had not reacted to the guards bringing him food for weeks, and finally a doctor was called.

Seth heard the door open, he knew it had to be special since it was not so long ago they came with food. He heard shuffling steps, definitely not a guard, this person was intimidated by the whole situation. “Ryder?” a female voice he had never heard said, “I’m a doctor, I’m here to see if you are okay.”

[Burn!]

Seth didn’t answer, he just sighed. She stepped closer, and Seth flexed his fingers which was largely numb from scribbling.

[Burn!]

“Seth, can I call you Seth?”

Seth still didn’t answer, he just needed her to come a couple of inches closer and he could grab her. They were all gonna burn, Addison, Clancy, Cora and the doctor lady too. She made the error of stepping a little closer and Seth grabbed her ankle and pulled, the doctor fell down and it sounded like something cracked open as she hit the floor, but Seth was over her, grabbing her pen and stabbed her neck.

[Stab! Stab! Make them dead!]

Her eyes were staring at him in shock. “The voices told me to do it.” Seth taunted, and stabbed her again. He heard the guards before he felt them pull him off her. He elbowed the guard behind him, and grabbed the gun as the guard reached for his broken nose. Seth twisted around and shot the other guard before he had time to react. And then he turned to the guard with the broken nose, twisting the rifle to empty half a mag in his abdomen. “Should have done this months ago.” Seth mumbled to himself as he stood in the middle of the three dead people. “Fuck you and fuck your Ark.” He said as he bent down to pick up the other guards rifle.

[Yes! You are the most beautiful child of them all – child of fury, child of death – my child.]

He walked out of the cell towards the guards station, he saw a guard jacket and put it on, he shouldered the rifle and as he searched the station he found another gun, he checked it for bullets and found the mag was full so he pocketed it.

He went back into the cell and looked the guards over for a key card, triumphantly grinning as he dug out his treasure, wiping the blood off on the guards pants.

Closing the door to the cell he went down the corridor, the guards card was an omni key, so he would have no problem getting into the water purification area, and double his luck it was apparently night so there was no one around besides the whirring cameras. He gave the camera the finger and grinned to himself as he went down the stairs towards his end goal of the water purification area. He knew it would take days before they looked over all the footage and by then he was either dead, or far away from here.

[Sweet fire, I can almost hear it sing to us, can you hear it Seth?]

A weird mix between excitement, anger and fear mingled in his chest, it made him want to cry and laugh at the same time. My burden is now yours indeed, he was gonna kill that fucking asshole when he met him, how dared he think he could get away with a cheesy one-liner like that. Alec Ryders burden was his own, and Seth was gonna make damn sure he was told that.

[Roar!]

Seth looked the place over, he went directly for the utility closet in the water pump area and looked at the shelves, electrical tape, toilet paper and a box of steel wool, just what he needed. He had spent a long time leaning how to defuse bombs but he sure as shit knew how to make them as well. He smiled as he picked up a screwdriver and then set about to unscrew the panel to the main pump. He looked at it, smiling at the exposed wires, whoever had jury-rigged this fucker had done a bad job, which would make his job all the much easier.

He stood up and went to the main panel and went through menus to disable the entire pump system for maintenance. It was marvelous really, because it meant that he would get access to the chip, but it also meant that there would be no extinguishing the fire. A little panel opened and a female voice told him what it said on the monitor. That the system was disabled. Seth smiled as he pulled the panel clean off and he gingerly picked up the chip that was the brain of the entire system. He contemplated stepping on it, but he pocketed it, thinking that he might get a good price for it somewhere, after all he was a smart kid. Right? That was what his mother had always told him. He went back to the main water pump, which was not disabled and the silence in the area was a little eerie when it was usually a cacophony of whirring pumps and bleeping machines. He knelt down to pull off a cord, he wrapped electrical tape around it, and exposed the copper carefully as to not get an electrical shock himself. Experimentally, he pulled a piece of toilet paper off and held it to the exposed wire a little electrical sting and a tiny flame in the paper. Seth smiled to himself and shoved the toilet paper in there along with the steel wool. He then redirected the wire so it would touch the paper and the flame was instant. He got up and went to the utility room once more and picked a couple of different aerosol cans of grease and a bottle of turpentine used to clean the gears. He tossed some turpentine on the small fire which made it roar up, he squeezed the bottle as he left, leaving a trail of turpentine after him all the way to the main control table. There were jackets, and paperwork all over, he emptied the bottle out over it and tossed the bottle. Good riddance.

[Hear it singing son, such a beautiful tune! Feel it running in your blood, feel the ecstasy build – like your first ever orgasm, white blinding light through all your limbs boy. You were born for this, it is calling you.]

As he stood by the door and watched the fire get a hold of the room he tossed the aerosol cans and closed the door. The water treatment area should be remote enough so no one would have heard a thing.

-*-

Seth managed to get all the way to the main door to the engineer quarters unseen. He was about to swipe his card to the door when he detected movement in his peripheral vision, He turned to see Liam walking up the corridor, a towel around his waist. “Hey Seth, where have you been man?”

[Ah yes! That guy, he reminds me of Sarah’s little dipshit friend, remember how he used to point at you every time you snuck out to see what they were doing, watching them play in the garden? Remember how he called you ‘it’, and do you remember how it hurt and how much you hated him?]

Seth had to think fast, it would only be a matter of time before Liam saw the blood splatter on his clothes so there was no way he was going to get out of this without it involving Liam in some version or another.  In the end he let Liam come closer and then turned and aimed the rifle at him, “Come here.” He barked hushed, “Seriously Liam, I will drop you where you stand.”

Liam stopped but then something made him reluctantly come over to Seth. “What are you doing?” Liam whispered.

[What does it look like idiot? We are making sure you can never point fingers at anyone again.]

“I am ending this.” Seth said.

Liam looked down at Seth confused, “Ending what?”

“Ark 24.” Seth said, “Now you can work with me and maybe get out of here, or you can go down with the rest, either way is fine by me. I just need you alive long enough to find Clancy Arquist for me.”

[Look at that superior grin, look at it! He doesn’t believe a plus child would have the balls.]

“I don’t know who he is.” Liam said, and for the first time he looked shook up.

Seth grabbed Liam’s arm and pushed the barrel of the rifle against the soft tissue under his jaw. “You better figure it out fast then.”

“We have a database.” Liam choked out, “Where does he work?”

[Remember the birthday where Sarah had a party, and you would peek out through the curtains from the upstairs bathroom to see the backyard – to be fair you did get a present and a cake, but nothing like hers – Never like hers. And that little shit saw you and he ran and told his mother, which got you punished. Sarah and her shitty little friends. You were a boy then, you are a man now – do it, fuck him up, I know you want to.]

“In the kitchen.”

“I can take you to their quarters.” Liam said swallowing hard.

“And open every door till we find him? Bad plan.” Seth ground the barrel a bit deeper into the tender flesh and he could swear he felt Liam’s pulse through the rifle.

[Fucking hell kid, just kill him already.]

“We just need a terminal.” Liam finally admitted.

“Alright.” Seth said determined, “We are going to go into our room, you use the terminal and I aim at you with my gun. You better not wake anyone, or they are dead too.”

“Understood.” Liam sighed as the pressure from the barrel went away.

“Now.” Seth poked Liam with the rifle in his ribs.

[Careful, what if he hits some sort of alarm in stead?]

Liam swiped the door with a shaking hand and went into the room which was only lit by a monitor. Seth stepped inside so the door would close, and no sounds would be out of the ordinary. He watched Liam trying to type with trembling hands. He was gonna find Clancy that little fucker and he was gonna make sure that he would regret ever being born. “Got him.” Liam mumbled.

“Great.” Seth whispered, “Lead the way.”

[That little traitor have no idea what is coming his way. Love it!]

Liam and Seth both exited the room and went down the hall. Liam kept looking at Seth and he could see Liam’s jaw clench, clearly he was fighting to say something. “What?” Seth whispered,

“I don’t get it.” Liam whispered, “What have I ever done to you?”

[Don’t get me started, is it before or after the patronizing tone? The condescending looks or the general disgust? You gotta be fucking kidding me!]

“Nothing.” Seth smiled, “Actually, you have been a perfect gentleman, it’s a just one of those things innit?”

“One of those things?”

“Could have been anyone who came down that corridor.” Seth smiled sweetly, “Nothing personal.”

[Jesus fucking Christ kid, would you just kill him?]

Liam looked mortified, but stayed level headed, something Seth had to admire. It was not everyone who could stay so cool in a situation like this, honestly it was almost admirable in a way. And why Liam hadn’t tried to challenge him by going for his gun was a complete mystery to him, Liam was much bigger and probably stronger too, but dumber apparently.

“It’s here.” Liam said softly, “He lives in here.”

“Go get him.”

“No.” Liam said sternly, and finally giving Seth a defiant stare. “You wanted me to show you where he was, I did.”

“Yes, and now I want you to go get him.” Seth stated with a bored face.

[Why do you even bother?]

“No.”

“Okay, that is your choice.” Seth raised his rifle and before Liam could utter another word, he fired. The bullets hit directly in Liam’s face and he was dead before he hit the ground. Seth stood still for a moment, waiting for the sound of a door opening. When no sound came he swiped his card and stepped into the room.

[And you call me a psycho? I like your style son.]

He saw Clancy sleeping on his back in a bottom bunk, actually the exact same bunk Seth himself had in a completely identical room. He leaned down and swiftly grabbed Clancy’s neck, watching him wake with a flail and eyes wide. Seth leaned in closer, “Hello there lover boy, you and I are gonna take a stroll, and you better keep your fucking mouth shut.” He tilted his head, “Can you do that?”

[Got you, you little fucker.]

Clancy blinked desperately, and Seth took that as a yes.

Seth pulled Clancy to his feet, still trying to figure out what he should do to him, but none of the options felt right. The door opened softly and they stepped out into the hall, Clancy yelped softly as he almost stumbled over Liam’s body. “He was tiresome.” Seth stated, “Come on then, lets take a walk, you and I.”

Clancy bit his lip but followed Seth’s orders.

[Have you decided if you want to fuck him and kill him, or the other way around? You can’t hide that boner from me boy.]

“I bet you wonder what I am going to do to you, aren’t you?” Seth asked sweetly. Clancy nodded. “Well, first off I want the truth, and then I’ll see about it. Deal?”

“Deal.” Clancy choked out, flinching as Seth kissed his cheek.

[You dirty, dirty boy – you are sick, you know that?]

“Great!” Seth said, “You got from now till we reach the main gate to the outside.”

Clancy swallowed hard, “Sara, it was Sara – not your Dad.”

[That little bitch!]

“I see.” Seth nodded, “Makes sense.”

“She wanted you to go away, and –“

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Seth said poking Clancy with the rifle as they turned a corner.

“She said that you’d believe me if I told you a story about your Dad.” Clancy said softly, “Look I’m sorry, but she said she could get me exiled if I didn’t do as she said.”

[Look at sister dear playing with dirty tricks, good thing we got a few of our own up our sleeve.]

“She probably could.” Seth said casually, “Looks like you got the rough end of the deal, man.” He smiled amused, “Cause I am gonna shoot this 12 caliber in that pretty face of yours.”

“Oh God.” Clancy whimpered.

[Ha!]

Seth just chuckled, “You did this to yourself – man up.”

Clancy started to cry, and Seth sighed, “I wanted the truth, and you are giving me some story about Sara just wanting me out of the way. See, I know that is bullshit, because Sara is smarter than that.” Seth smiled, “It’s not my first rodeo.”

[Ain’t that the truth?]

“But it’s true.” Clancy cried softly, refusing to look at Seth.

“So you decided to fuck me over because she said she could make someone exile you? Come on Clancy.” Seth laughed amused. “Surely it’s not worth your life.”

[Come on Seth, just shoot that sniffling little moron and you can masturbate till your fucking cock bleeds, afterward.]

“She said you were dumb.” Clancy mumbled, “And into guys like me – so it would be easy.”

“Oh, of course she’d say that.” Seth said, his voice a little more annoyed. “If she had told you the truth – yeah, we wouldn’t be here.”

Clancy finally looked up at Seth, “It is true that Addison is going to use you as a bargaining chip.”

[Do. Not. Believe. It]

“I don’t doubt it.” Seth said coolly, “But I really don’t care. Pretty sure my Dad forged my entire identity to even get me aboard his crazy Ark, the last stand for human kind or whatever crap he told the journalists.” He looked slightly mournful for a moment. “I am a shitstain on his name, he never intended for me to be brought out of cryostasis.”  Seth stopped in the wide corridor and looked at the signs, “This way.” He poked Clancy with the rifle again to turn, “This place is a fucking maze.”

[You are probably right, he intended for us to stay there forever.]

Seth gestured to the last door and Clancy gently pushed it open.

“Fucking finally.” Seth sighed as he saw the exit from the Ark, now the only problem was that the door it was like a massive vault door which would be a problem. He couldn’t quit now, Seth let out a frustrated whine as he punched the controls pretty sure it would trigger a silent alarm, he wasn’t prepared for the actual alarm that sounded as the doors slid open. He jumped the railing from the controls and ran for the doors, momentarily forgetting all about sweet revenge on Clancy, and the alarm blocking out Sam’s screaming. he just needed them ajar to slip through, hopefully before the damn cavalry made it here.

The sound was deafening and Seth was so high strung that he thought he might snap a tendon if he held on to his rifle any harder. The door just needed to open like a couple of inches more when he heard yelling at the other end of the main entrance room. He held up his rifle and shot, a guard fell down. “Stop!” someone yelled, “What you are doing is forbidden.”

[Sue me!]

“Sue me!” Seth yelled back. In the chaos he had lost sight of Clancy, bloody shame really – he would have liked to shoot the little fucker. The large door opened slowly, and Seth ground his teeth, wondering why anyone would need a door that opened this slow. He could hear the guards’ confused yelling because Cora was no where to be seen, and he smiled to himself.

[Take her out, kill her dead Seth, she needs to go! Do it, do it, do it… she won’t ever let us go.]

Finally, Cora arrived at the scene, and as soon as she showed up Clancy made a run for it. Seth aimed and shot him straight in the back of his head. Clancy exploded unto Cora who didn’t even blink. “Your father said you were troubled, but I had never imagined this.” She yelled, finally giving in, wiping blood from her lips.

[Good shot son! ‘That felt good didn’t it?]

Seth didn’t answer as he eyed the guard that tried to get to the control panel, they were trying to flank him and stop the door opening sequence and trap him inside with them. They were too many, he could maybe hold them off the control panel for a couple of minutes before he ran out of bullets, and then what? For a second he wondered if it would be so hard to just give in, let go.

[You are outgunned kiddo, might as well just lay down and die – or you could die trying, what is it gonna be huh? Come on you little fucking pussy! Are you just gonna lay down and take it? Let Cora and that other Addison cunt walk all over you? You probably won’t even get the chance they are gonna murder your right here. Can’t have a homicidal crazy person like you running around like that, cause you are crazy you know that right? They will have a hangman jury right here! Execute you right where you stand and use your body to fertilize their carrots and cabbages.]

He took a split second decision and attempted to push out between the doors, if he was crushed it was what it was, at least he had tried. Sharp pain shot through his leg as a bullet penetrated flesh and bone. And seconds later a second bullet went through his arm. He had to get through or he was dead for sure.

“You’re dead Ryder.” Cora yelled as she walked towards the control panel, her gun trained on Seth,

Seth wanted to answer, but all his mind could do was scream as Sam screamed. He pushed harder and feeling the metal of the door scrape his skin off his back, if he had had time to be poetic for a moment he would have recognized his second birth of blood and metal.

Cora walked briskly over and hit the button, and the doors started to close again, Seth screamed as he made a last ditch effort at getting out, just a little more and he would be out and hopefully his legs wouldn’t be crushed in the process. He hardly reacted to the bullet that Cora sent straight into his side.

[You are gonna die here, bullet to the head or be crushed – you are a fucking idiot Seth! You always were.]

Once he had his torso through, his legs followed, mostly like a new born calf, and Seth fell to the dirt on the other side of the heavy door. He didn’t turn to look he could hear them yell for the door to be opened again. “Get up!” He hissed at himself, as he struggled to get to his feet the pain hit him tenfold in his side, he touched it and stared at his hand which came away drenched in blood. He pushed his hand against his side and hobbled towards the end of the short tunnel, he hoped that it was the truth, that the outside wasn’t really toxic, that it was just a old wives tale so people would stay in the Ark.

[Don’t faint you little shit.]

As he came to the mouth of the tunnel, he could hardly breathe, he was wheezing. They wouldn’t dare to come out here, he had made it! And his skin wasn’t burning either.

He saw smoke in the distance and started to walk towards it. He didn’t recognize the area, but even if he had known where they had chosen to bury Ark 24, the world had been on fire for decades and there was little to nothing left of the world he had known.

Alec Ryder and his precious daughter were dead when he found them, they did this to him. He was not crazy, they had made him crazy by insisting he was insane. Alec Ryder had submitted him so many times to different facilities and the only thing Seth had gotten out of it was more resentment. His Dad knew he wasn’t insane, it was just a convenient lie to excuse his behavior.

This hatred was his burden, not Alec’s, but Seth’s. He wanted to see the world burn because the world was nothing but a constant reminder that he was a second class citizen, he was canon fodder, and the kid that cleaned toilets and gym floors at prestigious schools in exchange of a rudimentary education. And it made him so mad to know he was privileged, he had had it easy in comparison to many other plus children.

His wheezing got worse and he almost stumbled. Seth’s gaze was completely focused on the smoke in the distance, and he was going to make it there or die trying as Sam had yelled at him.

Seth desperately hoped there was no predators around here, because his hand was getting too weak to hold unto the rifle.

In the distance he could see the sun setting. Alright, maybe he wouldn’t make it, maybe he would just kick the bucket before he got there.

It reminded him of the time he had sprung the mental institution his parents had placed him in, and he had been shot up on tranquilizers, it had been murder to get across the barbwire. His legs were wobbly like then, only it was not tranquilizers, it was his body shutting down. Seth knew that if he fell he would never get up again.

His leg and his side had stopped hurting, he knew he should be alarmed but he just focused even harder on the pillar of smoke on the horizon. His thoughts were muddled, and mostly revolved around how fast they were gonna discover his fire, and the missing chip – he chuckled, it reminded him of childhood mischief.

“Sam, I think I’m in trouble, my face is numb.” He slurred.

[I think you’re fucked.]

“Yeah, I think I am fucked too.” Seth chuckled weakly, “Ironic really, to finally get here just to join the other corpses”

Finally, his legs gave in and he unceremoniously fell to his knees. Seth closed his eyes and felt the world swim, like he was on the edge of a bottomless vortex of darkness just waiting to suck him in. “You win.” He whispered in a sigh as  he laid down on the ground. “I’m sorry Sam, I tried.”

[You always do.]

“I did didn’t I, only way i knew how,” Seth stared up in the bleak night skies, “All that bullshit, just wishing he would notice me, I stopped caring about why. Him punishing me or yelling at me, was proof that I was alive.”

[I know. For what it’s worth then I am proud of you, you did good son.]

“I’m scared.” Seth whispered in a slightly panicking voice, staring up into the starry skies.

[I’m here, don’t be scared. You want me to sing for you till you sleep?]

“Yes, please.” Seth smiled weakly, slowly closing his eyes, and for a moment he could fool himself to believe he was a little boy in his bed, tired from a day of playing outside. That little fright of monsters in his closet and under his bed made his heart skip a beat, only this time it was not tentacles and fangs that scared him – but the knowledge that he would never wake again.

[…While the cruel Cock Sparrow, The cause of their grief, Was hung on a gibbet, Next day, like a thief…]

EPILOGUE

“Hey Suvi, come check this – I think he might be dead.”

Suvi walked slowly over to the man on the ground, “He looks like those crazy cultists in the mountain. What is he doing all the way out here?”

“Getting shot?” Greer said as he hunched down running a finger over the huge stain of blood on Seth’s side. “Oh well,” He shrugged, “Finders keepers, and his rifle seems okay.”

“Alright.” Suvi said, “Still strange, maybe he did it to himself? Or, maybe it was raiders?”

“Come on Suvi, you know he would be worth much more alive than dead to them.” Greer shot her a funny look, “He is still warm.” He moved his hand from Seth’s hand to his neck, searching for a pulse, “I think… I think he might be alive.”

“Damn, let me try.” Suvi got down to her knees and leaned in over Seth, listening for a breath. “You’re right, but just barely. I don’t even think he will survive the trip back to New Kadara.”

“We gotta try.” Greer said as he stood up and shouldered Seth’s rifle.

“Agreed.” Suvi nodded.

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