Two

The desert heat felt good on his flesh. The light of the sun burned his eyes, and yet he could not turn away from the flaming orb above his head.

            Real light. Real life.

            He jogged leisurely along the dirt road, keeping his ears open for the sound of army trucks. He stayed on the road, knowing there were mines in the fields, for the very purpose of blowing up anything alien coming in… or any fugitive coming out.

            BioGen, otherwise known as the Biological Generation Corporation, was the greatest-kept government secret in the history of the United States. Founded in 2017, its soul purpose was to develop and train the finest biological creations; they were robots, with fleshy exteriors but deadly, indestructible inner workings that made them the finest soldiers in the world.

They were bred and developed, all to look slightly different and all equally human while they were anything but. It took them years to work out the kinks in the procedure, and for the near part of a decade it drained the country’s economy dry. War was raging in the Middle East, but that cleared up pretty quickly when the Class-A’s were brought to Iraq. They did what they were trained to do, and they did a damn fine job of it.

They never grew old, the BioGen soldiers. They never changed physically. They ate and drank like humans, passed waste like humans; but they never became ill, nor did they have the capacity to make their own decisions, or to act on primitive impulses. They were cut off from their own minds.

They simply existed for the soul purpose of killing. Killing and taking orders.

Just pawns in a bigger monster’s game.

Audwin had not discovered these things himself. He had not the capacity to even ask about his existence, who or why he was. He only knew how to run faster, push harder, get tougher and learn the arts of war. Audwin could kill a man in a thousand different ways, with or without a weapon. Audwin could entrench himself in enemy territory for weeks on end, without food or water, just waiting for that perfect sniper shot, waiting for the call to fire.

He had been told to escape. It had been an order.

But what was he supposed to do when he was miles away from BioGen? Where was he supposed to go?

Audwin slowed down. He turned to see the trembling shape of the BioGen building in the distant heat, shining in the intense sunlight.

He fell to his knees, staring at all the ground he had covered in the last few hours. He was alone, with no one to obey and no one to prove himself to.

Now that he had escaped, Audwin felt completely and utterly useless. His life, real or not, had no meaning now.

His heart raced, aching violently in his chest. His palm rested upon it, and he stared down at himself, bewildered.

What is this feeling?

Fear, Audwin. Do not be afraid.

He stood up once again, turning away from the building to the endless desert before him. He had no use. No purpose. No GPS and no dog tag.

But Audwin Zanex was free.

With a deep breath, he took off like a shot, sprinting faster than ever before. He was faster because he wanted to run. And for the first time, he only had himself to answer to.

Run, Audwin. Run to the end of this scorched planet, and never return.

________________________________________________

“July twenty-fourth, 2025. Class-M’s are nearly ready to join the troops in South Africa. Final tests are being run, and all are passing with understated successes. It seems the last few kinks in their systems have been bred out, and with the reproduction dates set for the next generation, I have no doubt that we have finally perfected the procedure.” 

            Professor Edward Caldwell sat tensely among the rest of the BioGen Board of Directors. With black hair and bright green eyes, he was by far the youngest member of the board, as well as the leading scientist on the BioGen team; a team so large it made NASA look like a book club. There were thirty board members in total, sitting at a round table with a spherical television in the middle. Director Vanita’s young face was displayed, updating the board of their recent successes. Her gaze was hard, her face stern.

            Edward sighed, knowing how beautiful she had once been. Now she, like the country they lived in, was corrupt; no less of a robot than the creations she supervised.

            Board President Alfred Holloway sat to Edward’s right. The oldest man on the council, he had gruff features, neatly-trimmed white hair and slender glasses on the end of his nose. He nodded absently as he skimmed over the files that had been delivered; each page containing the current information of every functioning soldier on record. He flipped through them quickly, and as one particular file was revealed to Edward’s eyes, his heart began to race.

            President Holloway stopped on the soldier’s picture. Returning his gaze to Kiera’s hologram, he coughed. “Very good, Director Vanita. However, I have been informed that a major security breach occurred early this morning.” He held up the file.

Edward watched as Kiera’s jaw set. “Yes. That particular Class-M managed to escape the building.”

“I assume it was quickly retrieved?” Holloway asked.

Kiera made no move. “It was not. It managed to take out the customary GPS transmitter implanted in its bicep. Then it escaped the electric fences surrounding the training grounds.”

Edward ground his teeth. How easy it was for them to say ‘it’.

Holloway took off his glasses, his thick white eyebrows furrowed. “How did this happen?”

“The Class-M’s cell-mate could offer no information. We terminated it.”

Edward slumped into his seat.

Poor Yuri...

Kiera went on. “All Class-M’s are being carefully monitored. Security is tighter than ever.” She reassured.

“And efforts to retrieve the project are…?”

“Already in action, President. Several trucks have been sent to catch up with the project. Helicopter teams are working to block off any of the areas heading toward civilization. It will have no human contact.”

“I will trust that you know your position, as well as the entire integrity of BioGen depends on that, Director.”

She nodded, her gaze turning for an instant to Edward. He tightened his jaw, sitting up more in his seat.

“We will keep the board updated, sir.” She said, before the screen wavered like a ripple in a pond, and vanished.

Holloway looked around the circle of members. “I will be sending Doctor Caldwell to the Director’s aid,” he said, as Caldwell stood up next to him. “He will ensure that this little mishap has not slowed the progress of the Class-M’s, and will make the final preparations to send them to the efforts in Africa.”

Edward nodded slightly, turning and shaking Holloway’s hand. “Thank you, sir.” He said lowly.

“Our meeting is adjourned,” he said, signaling for everyone to rise. He handed the hefty pile of documents to Edward, before being escorted out of the room by two security guards.

Returning to the sanctity of his office, Edward set the files down on his desk. He found the escaped project’s documents and leaned down to look through them earnestly, rubbing his temples with his fingers.

“Damn it,” he muttered, standing upright once again and turning to the huge window. The city of Washington was laid out below him, stretching on and on into a haze of nothingness to the south. He had not expected the Class-M’s disappearance to be discovered so soon. He wasn’t even one of the most successful projects. He was so low-key, so undistinguished from the rest of the Class. He was sure it would have been half a day, maybe more, before he was realized to be missing.

He recalled their first session together.

Edward Caldwell was the lead scientist, but also acted as a private ‘interactionist’ for the projects. Traditionally, he was to interact with each soldier not so that he could understand and learn their minds; but so that they could learn his.

In order for anyone to succeed at something, they must know and understand what they’re up against. Edward was young, only twenty-three years of age, and was drafted out of the army when the Class-F generation was sent in to replace his units in Israel several years back. Still, he wanted to be a part of the war-effort, and had the inconceivable brilliance to become a biological engineer; a scientist to create soldiers that were even better than him.

He had discovered that the earlier generations did not fare as well because they did not know their enemies; did not know their minds, their senses, their weaknesses. And so he volunteered to act as an example of man.

The first time Audwin arrived for a session with Edward, he knew instantly that there was something different about this project.

 “Good afternoon, Professor Caldwell. I am here for my first interaction.”

“Ah yes, project AXM, yes? Come in.”

It sat down slowly, eyes looking around at the room. It was lit with fluorescent bars above their heads, with a pale grey ceiling and concrete flooring. The walls were white.

Edward had not had much sleep the night before, and he opened up his briefcase clumsily to retrieve the project’s file. The case opened unexpectedly, falling open and scattering papers everywhere, as well as a small, ornate book.

“Oops,” Edward chuckled tiredly. “As you can see, Class-M, man is a very careless, disorganized enemy. Here is a perfect example, you see? I was not fully awake, aware of my surroundings, and so I made a mistake. It will happen often to your enemies, and you will recognize it to be weakness.” He rambled as he gathered up his things, not looking to the project. When he heard no response, he looked up to see his book in the Class-M’s hands. He stared, bewildered as the project ran his fingers along the binding, over the embossed title.

“What is this?” it asked.

Edward was stunned. They never asked questions, or did anything without being told to. Confused, he reached for it.

“It’s a book, class-M. My book, if you would be so kind and give it back…”

“What does it do?” it asked, turning it about. “Is it a weapon?”

Edward chuckled, but wished he hadn’t. “Not the kind of weapon you are trained to use, class-M.”

It looked up at him, confusion apparent in his eyes. “Why not?”

Edward hesitated, looking into the project’s eyes. So real, so pure…his own inventions haunted his senses, and now he feared he had made a huge mistake. But the project’s eyes yearned for the truth, and foolishly, Edward sat down once again, leaving the book with the project.

“Well, I guess we would have to start at the beginning…”

That was several months ago, and now Edward recalled that late morning with regret, as well as an unyielding sense of hope, fear, accomplishment... a grand myriad of emotions that left him breathless now.

“Audwin,” he said to the misty horizon line, “Don’t let them find you.”

The End

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