Word Count: 1954
Day was no different to night on Plato, the thick black clouds barely fading as the slum world's distant sun broke over the ugly horizon. Zero looked up and opened his eyes to greet the new day, watching the yellow blur slowly crawl up through the thick cloud layer, he hadn't slept. Not fully. It was too dangerous to sleep here. For the remainder of the night after stealing his equipment from the two enforcers he had remained on the rooftop of this degrading tower block, listening to the communication frequency of the E.D.F for precisely thirty-four minutes before the radio malfunctioned. Water from the puddle the soldier had fallen into had leaked into the system through a crack in the outer polymer casing that was most likely caused by Zero's assault.
It was a loss, but not one that was mission threatening. The chatter between the enforcers and their headquarters had been useful in only discovering their search grids, they had cut the planet into eighteen blocks and each block was patrolled by ten pairs of enforcers. If they discovered his location a troop transport would fly to their position and drop fifty reserve enforcers via low altitude parachutes. That was the only useful information he had gleaned from the stolen radio. His training told him to strip it down for parts, so he did. The few lengths of wire in the device could act as make shift string and even stitching if he became wounded. The electronics could be sold or repurposed, and the metal could be smelted to forge blades, but he would need a great deal more for that.
His training told him he needed to move. It wasn't safe to stay in one place too long. He'd already risked going critical by staying here for the night, he couldn't leave things to chance now, the risk of being discovered by a patrolling ship was too great, he needed to control the outcome of this situation. And that meant moving.
Hauling his rucksack onto one shoulder Zero stood and carefully looked over the edge of the cast iron roof, the street below was empty. He took the opportunity. Jumping off the edge he quickly turned in the air and grabbed out at the empty window frames that lined the building at equidistant points down the wall. The moment he began to slow he released and grabbed the one beneath it, repeating this pattern of movement he hit the floor in under five seconds, rolling to avoid breaking any bones Zero pushed out of it into a casual walk. Hood up, head lowered, hands in pockets. No witnesses.
His objective for today was to discover what information the enforcers had pertaining to him on their database, and for that he needed a computer unit. They were located at enforcer outposts, and through careful planning Zero had positioned himself for the night only a few hundred metres from one such outpost. Watching it through the darkness he had only observed two enforcers enter the white steel hut, they had stayed for twelve-minutes and eighteen seconds before exiting to continue their patrol.
His training told him to enter via the roof. Odds of success, ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine, nine, nine percent.
Dropping down the ventilation shaft Zero landed silently. But a partial yell made him spin. Striking out through pure instinct he blocked the chair his opponent had thrown at him, through blind panic more than tactical thought, and lunged forward. The opponent wasn't skilled in combat, he was not an enforcer. Disposing of him was simple. A single uppercut to the jaw. He was unconscious before hitting the ground. Pausing Zero listened carefully, his hand ready to reach for his sword if the need required. Silence, it was not required. A soft breath whispered between his lips, staring down at his prostrate opponent Zero cursed himself, he should have took into account the potential of other E.D.F staff within the outpost. This one was a technician according to the ocean blue colour of his uniform. That was far too close. He needed to act fast.
Running over to the computer unit the holo-screens blinked into life just when he slid the comp-slate into the import slot, with an audible click the slate took and information immediately began streaming down the screen. He read it all without meaning to. His training told him to. 'Search,' he said loud enough for the inbuilt audiophones to pick up. 'Zero.'
Red flashed over the holo-screens with the words "No Data".
Anger raced through him briefly. 'Search, Subject Zero.'
A single file appeared on one of the four screens. It was a wanted poster. That was all. No photograph, no useful description. Confusion was not a sensation Zero was used too, but for a few long seconds he couldn't understand why they had done this. Then it hit him. With a one hundred thousand credit reward everyone will be looking for him, that much credit could make someone very wealthy, and this way the government could sever all affiliation with him. An arrest warrant would cause a stir and possible questions, by doing it like this they had taken themselves out of the equation...every merc faction; pirate, bounty hunter and enforcer would be wanting to cash in that reward. It appeared his situation was far more grave than he first realised.
The only saving grace was it didn't appear they were sending the other Subjects after him. That raised his odds of success greatly.
Zero twisted his head sharply. Footsteps were approaching from the main entrance. Closing down the data file he was about to extract the comp-slate when something caught his eye. The footsteps were getting nearer. Thud, thud, thud, thud. He pulled up the file and was confronted with a face he hadn't seen in many years. Thud. Thud. Thud.
The door to the office swung open and a second technician strode in. 'Michael have you, Michael!' he cried running to the aide of his unconscious friend. Ignoring the open ventilation grill above him that Zero slowly closed and locked in place. Sliding off the roof Zero strode through the streets with a renewed sense of purpose. No longer blending in his whole posture changed, he was no longer some hunched homeless with his hands in his pockets; he stood straight with his eyes forward and swung his arms slightly.
He was a soldier now. He was a weapon. He was Zero, for the first time since landing on Plato.
Christian rolled the whisky around in his hand, the glass the fine alcohol sat in hardly deserving to carry such a rare year. But it was all he had. He had remained like this for close to three days, barely moving about his apartment, hardly eating, he just drank. He'd wake up here and he'd sleep here. Fitting somehow, the fact that he would also die here .
'I've been waiting for you,' he said to the darkness of his sh*itty living room. The creak of the floorboards could have been anything, a rat scurrying across them or even the wind pushing against the side of the building. But he knew it wasn't any of those. 'I still have a few friends back on Earth, despite what you might think,' putting his glass down on the table Christian sat back deeper into his arm chair. The one luxury in this whole apartment block. 'When they told me what had happened at the facility I knew it would only be a matter of time before you came looking for me...'
The floorboards groaned beneath his weight as he moved, like a viper through the shadows, and sat himself down in the chair across from Christian. Sitting with his back straight, hands flat on the table, eyes front. Gods, what have they done to you? 'Hello Zero.'
'Good evening Doctor.' It had been many years since he'd been called that.
Christian looked at his work for a moment; he was marvel of creation, those obsidian eyes so typical of genmods staring at him impassively. Even now, even after all that had happened, he was proud. 'How?' was all he needed to ask.
'I acquired a comp-slate from an Enforcer, found your location on their database. Reached target building, disabled the two watchers observing the building, entered via fifth floor window, picked the lock of apartment door.' rattled off Zero with rigid wording. It was like talking to a badly programmed A.I.
'Is that in your training Zero?' he didn't answer. That was almost as interesting as if he had. 'Improvisation...how interesting.' he picked up his whisky and downed the last of it in one huge mouthful. Savouring the taste for every moment. It would be the second to last thing he would ever taste. 'They trained you well,'
'They trained what you made me, Doctor.' he said simply. His face still unmoving.
'Do you think I wanted that for you!?' he bellowed. Throwing the glass at him. As drunk as he was the glass missed wildly and smashed against the back wall. Zero never flinched. 'Do you think I wanted...this, for you?’ he asked wildly gesturing to Zero. ‘They made you what you are! Those, bastards that stole my research and techniques the moment I was finished with you. I didn't make you into this Zero, I furthered you, I advanced you...in you, I created the next step in human evolution! They turned you into a weapon. Them. Not me.'
Leaning forward onto the table Christian laughed madly. 'You don't even understand what you are do you? You...Zero...you are the future of our species, proof that long term genmodding can be beneficial to the human race.' looking into those unfeeling black eyes the former Doctor felt a sudden blossom of pity in his heart, of grief, of regret. Look at what they had done to him, his perfection...ruined. 'I never wanted this for you Zero.' sitting back a horse laugh broke from his lips. 'I regret a lot of the things I did in my life, but my work at Exogen, working with the government to further my research, creating you...I don't regret any of it.'
Zero still stared at him. Never blinking. Never moving. Never speaking. Anti-social disorder....Jesus, they repressed him. 'Do you remember anything? Before the government took you from me?' he didn't speak. But for Christian he didn't have to, he could see it in him. He knew him that well, at least. 'Have you started having the visions yet?' Zero blinked. Christian laughed, disguising the tears that ran from his eyes. 'Oh my dear boy, what did they do to you?' the Doctor didn't expect an answer and he didn't get one. 'The reclamation process isn't pleasant Zero, but don't fight it.'
'How does this end, Doctor?' he asked, a muscle in his arm twitching.
Christian smiled slightly. 'Well you tripped the silent alarm the moment you opened my door, Enforcer reinforcements should be here anytime now.'
'A minute. Maybe two.' Christian sat back in his chair, resting his hands on his legs. 'It's funny. Every day I see genmods, a twisted, weak, impure replication of my legacy. Everyone I look at reminds me what work I could have done if given the chance...whether I like it or not I've left my mark on humanity. Permanently. I suppose that's something.' Christian paused and took a small breath.
'Promise me something, my boy. Promise an old fool one last thing,' Zero didn't answer. But he didn't refuse either, he had expected him to. 'Tear this wretched government to the ground, rip it apart brick by brick, and kill them all.'
Pulling the pistol from beneath the table Christian shoved it in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
The metallic taste of rusted steel left on his tongue.