Turned out that hell wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

I was tied to a chair with a cord that was too strong for its own good and a gag was keeping my mouth shut.

The gas mask was off, presumably because the drone had long lost sight of where I was being hauled and had no need to continue spraying the famous Syper Gas that all standard government vehicles carried.

Syper Gas essentially paralyzed any individual unlucky enough to inhale even a few whiffs, and the pain involved was said to be unbearable.

Of course, there was an antidote, but there were said to be certain...more lasting effects that couldn’t be reversed.

Which, of course, led me to wonder how the soldiers could have been clumsy enough to send down such a weapon with an innocent victim (me) in the way.

For the amount of funding the military got, it could use some better training regimes.

But these terrorists, however, had an impressive array of technology.

I was sitting in a small, cylindrical room with an opening opposite me through which I could glimpse the forest canopy, and light filtering through the leaves.

The room I was in, coincidentally, was inside a tree.

 I’d heard of terraforming and bioengineering before, but never to this extent. If I wasn’t so busy being terrified I might have appreciated it.

Actually, I never appreciated anything. To be fair, I’d never really seen anything worth appreciating.

And then I heard the sound of the makeshift rope elevator squeaking and looked up to see another female terrorist entering the room.

It took longer than it should have to recognize her. She looked so different, with her pale skin tanned and weathered and guns strapped in multiple places to her person.

She cocked her head to the side and smirked at me, the lips I had bruised with my own mocking me.

“You should have been disposed of...” I muttered, surprised, “I sent you back such a long time ago...”

“Oh, I remember.” She said, her raspy voice calm, “I remember everything.”

Her hands moved to tuck her long blonde hair over a shoulder, revealing a multitude of scars on her neck.

“The real question here is whether or not you do, Preston.”

“Mercy!” A voice called from outside, sounding bothered.

“This isn’t over.” The clone stated simply, turning and hopping to the rope, quickly descending out of view.

She was utterly beautiful, with her flaxen hair and clear blue eyes. That was why I’d ordered her.

The only problem was, she was defective.

I was drunk on at least three different substances and it was a mix of the inebriation and her looks that kept me from sending her back straight away.

She was the Aryan model. One of the most popular. My personal favourite.

So when she screamed and did her level best to strangle me, I paid no mind and did what my instincts were demanding I do.

I forced myself upon her. Not all too gently either.

By the time I finally came enough to my senses to send her back, she was a battered, comatose wreck.

The last thing I remembered was the look of hatred in her eyes as two automatons came to ship her off.

I didn’t feel guilty. I had no reason to. I was simply a consumer who had used a product, and its quality wasn’t my fault either.

But, from then on, I only ordered brunettes.

The elevator creaked again and my kidnapper hopped into the room, a malicious glint in her eye.

“Now, you can either make this easy or hard on yourself. I would prefer the second option, though.”

“What do you want from me?” I managed to say, sounding much more scared than I wanted to.

She laughed, and a second later she was beside my chair, holding a syringe in her hand.

“Don’t play the fool. I want information. You can either spill or I’ll put a bit of this formula into your bloodstream.”

“What? I don’t know anything!” I yelled quite honestly, eying the needle fearfully.

Syringes were ancient technology, and who knew what kind of contaminants were living in one that the Verisat owned?

The needle descended through the air and to my forearm, just pushing down into my skin.

“You’re letting me have way too much fun. Make it easy on yourself.”

“I really, really don’t know anything!” I insisted, my voice becoming hoarse.

“Well, isn’t this a nice Christmas present!” the terrorist laughed, jabbing the needle through and unloading it into me.

My last thought before I descended into darkness was that I remembered hearing about ‘Christmas’ in one of my history transmissions.

Being exposed to the strange drug felt like having a nightmare.

I didn’t know what that felt like (what with dream programming I never had to) but I had managed to hear a considerable amount of how horrible the experience was for those living in the Unenlightened Age (U.A.).

My nights were filled with vivid fantasies of adventure and women.

I’d only taken clones before. Real-born women were an unknown taste to me.

Not that I didn’t have bigger thoughts occupying my mind. 

The End

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