Third installment of my series. Enjoy! :) 

Genome X:
  Part Three

by Derek Schachter

(C) 2001

<5:45 Camera On, Heat Sensor On, Recording On, Subject Identified: Aurora>

    Aurora: Hi, it’s me again. I…I don’t know why I’m still doing this. I kind of forget my reasoning for basically telling my whole story. I know I said before that it keeps me busy, and I guess that’s true. I still have to keep that in mind. I mean, out in space, there’s really nothing to look at. Well, nothing I haven’t looked at ten times already.
    Look out the window. It’s the Sun, giver of light and warmth, neither of which is on this vessel right now. It may blind us if we looked at it, or scorch us, or, for one of my shipmates at least, kill us. I mean, it is still quite far away, but that enormous ball of gas, that one, right over there, has turned many tricks on civilization. In Ancient times, entire wars could be lost simply because of the Sun. Think about it, if it is sunrise, and one side is facing East while the other side West, who is more likely to win? That’s right, the side facing West, because they aren’t blinded by the sun. I’m sure the Sun had something to do with the Dinosaurs going extinct. Its gravitational pull, most likely, sent an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. That’s happened many times since though. Meteor showers for example, though not necessarily caused by the Sun’s gravity, do occur quite often.

    I remember once, about seven years ago, this asteroid, about the size of a house, was going to collide with the Earth by hitting, now get this, Russia! You’d had to have been there I suppose to understand the irony of United States using it’s own defense systems to save Russia, because at the time, the U.S. and Russia were in yet another arms race…the laser defense race! Russia lost this cute little marathon and thus didn’t have any adequate defense mechanisms to save itself from something like an asteroid. Don’t get me wrong, the Earth as a whole, along with the UN and NATO, had all sorts of devices to stop such a tragedy from occurring, because that’s how easily the Earth, and all of our progress along with it, could be wiped out. Small races between countries were good for their respective economies, as if they were in any danger in the first place. This was just one race they were having at the time, and it was quite funny when the United States took matters into its own hands and “saved” Russia before official planetary installations could. We had quite a laugh at that. I think right now there is a race to see who can design an automobile that can run on only six watts of power…solar power! The Sun influencing our society once again and the progression of our technology research. I can’t wait until we get teleporters and devices that create any food we want instantaneously. Now that is science fiction!

    Back to the Sun, I mentioned earlier that the Sun probably sent an asteroid to the Earth and exterminated the Dinosaurs. Actually, that theory has been the accepted one, and many just go the extra distance to state it as fact. Now, I’m no iconoclastic, but I’ve always been fond of the Sister Sun Theory. Helios has backed me up on it as well. Our solar system could very well in fact be a binary system. We have one star here, the Sun, while the other star follows a different orbit, stopping close to Earth once every 70 million years. That second star could be an explanation for the Earth heating up, it’s temperature almost doubling, which killed all plant life, and eventually, the Dinosaurs. A bit obscure, yeah, but no one has yet to prove us wrong.

    My friends and I are pretty smart, no doubt about that. I think one of the reasons that Gemini wanted to keep a tight lid on the project was simply exploitation of us. No, let me correct that…Gemini didn’t want anyone ELSE to exploit our talents. I believe that if we were let go, released, set free, then we would probably have used our wits and skills against Gemini. Now, I’m not a violent person by nature, none of us are. However, their paranoia could very well be justified. You see, the stakes had risen for us, in many ways. As you will learn, I believe we had more incentive, and more potential, to be violent. That may be true, but as I keep saying, it was all Gemini’s fault. We did what we had to do during extreme measures. We’re only human beings, and if you can’t understand that, then you must be one of them, because you are not my friend.

    Our situation became even more serious extremely soon, as if God or whoever was looking over us didn’t want to give us one moment to rest or put our minds at ease. I think it was the very next day. Yes, it was, because it was our testing day. Every six months, as outlined in the Genome X Project guidelines, we had to be subject to mandatory testing, which lasted a full day. The object of this testing was to make sure that the development of all of our bodies followed our projected, predetermined developments. One simple example: if I was designed to be six feet tall by the time I was eighteen years old, but I was actually two inches over that data when I was sixteen, that would be a problem. I would have to be studied further so it could be understood why that happened, whether it was due to simple miscalculations, what type of food I ate, my metabolism, or any other variable. That was what the project’s Level 2 stage was all about basically: could synthetically generated cells retain predetermined attributes? For the most part, we were all turning out as expected, sometimes even better. Sarin’s IQ, for one, was supposed to be about thirty points below what it currently is, but now he is statistically the smartest of the bunch. Those are just a couple aspects Gemini tests. It tests so many that is takes one full day before they have all of the data that it needs. It is tiring, strenuous, painful, invokes competition among us all, but at least we get a cookie at the end of it.

    We also get a new dosage assessment. Every day we have to take a certain dosage of pills that maintains the structure of our bodies and promotes steady development. Well, we didn’t have to take them, unless we wanted to live. Fortunately, we were told that after a certain amount of time we wouldn’t need our dosages anymore, when our bodies could maintain themselves. We were also told that it would be soon, since those pills tasted like recycled newspaper. Anyhow, I was awoken the next morning rather pleasantly as one of my placid comrades had something he wanted to share with us.

    “Naos! Aurora! Wake up! I have something extremely important to tell you!” Helios came barging into our room, excited like a madman, and shook the both of us awake, practically pulling the sheets off of our bodies. I was still groggy and I couldn’t see much, but I still knew Helios’s voice and I knew to grab ahold of the sheets so he wouldn’t see our bodies, even if we weren’t completely naked. “Wake up, please! This is urgent!” He pleaded with us, his voice shooting right into our eardrums. I sat up, wiping my eyes and trying to focus them. Helios ran to the other side of them bed and began tugging Naos out of it, who was laying facedown and still snoring. Helios’s face was bright red and he wouldn’t calm down, no matter how much I tried.

    “Helios! Calm down! What could be so important…” I looked out the window and noticed the Sun that was just beginning to rise. “…so important as to wake us at…Cygnus time!”

    “The time is six thirty-one ayy emm.” The Cygnus computer said.

    “…at 6:30 in the morning?” I fixed up my hair and looked around the room to see clothes sprawled out everywhere, on the floor, on the nightstand, and over the dressers. “Don’t we have any clean clothes anymore?” Helios picked a bunch of clothes off the floor and through them on us. I had to pick them off Naos so he wouldn’t be smothered.

    “Here’s clothes! Here’s clothes! Put them on quick! We have to go!” He screeched as Naos started to awaken.

    “Most of these are my boyfriend’s, you know.” I said, then noticing the surveillance and bringing my voice down to a whisper. “Maybe you should keep your voice down.”

    “Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry, I took care of it! Just relax ok!” Helios responded, still in a rush. Sweat was permeating from his forehead.

    “What’s going on, man?” Naos yawned and sat up in the bed, putting on one of his shirts that was laid out on the bed for him so conveniently.

    “Important shit. Come on, come on! Geez, where is Sarin?” Helios was muttering to himself a mile a minute; he wouldn’t stop shaking. “I’m sure I woke him up. I think I did. No matter, I still have to wake you boys up. Sorry to ruin your cute slumber, boys, but…” He ran to the room sterilizer mechanism and activated it. I heard the vacuums on the walls turn on, sucking out all of the air in the room. I only had moments before the doors would close on us.

    “Oh, you’re such a bastard!” I yelled over the loud sound of the wall vacuums as I grabbed all of the clothes that I could and pulled Naos by the wrist out with me, the door closing just behind us with a thump. “Oh, I’m going to kill you. I swear to God I am.” I grinded my teeth in anger, preparing to punch him square in the jaw.

    “Before somebody else does, Aurora?” Helios whispered into my ear. “I have something extremely important to discuss with all of you.”

    “How did you get into our apartment, Helios?” Naos asked suspiciously in a whisper as he put on some pants and handed me a shirt, which I promptly slipped on.

    “Well, I was up all night on the computer, checking things out, pretty much finding out everything there could be to know about this place.” Helios smirked and led us downstairs, pouring himself a cup of freshly brewed coffee. So not only did he break into our apartment, but he was using our coffeemaker as well! “And boy, have I got some stuff to tell you guys.” He leaned against the counter and nervously drank his coffee.

    “You were in the database all night? What about the cameras?” I asked.

    “Oh, we convinced Dad to move it to the other side of the room. We just said the glare from the Sun was bothering us during dusk. He didn’t suspect a thing. The cameras can’t see because I also ran an old video and sound recording from a half-hour ago in all of our apartments and the elevator. Those images are running in the camera and sound systems now; they can’t tell the difference, and since no one is supposed to be getting up for forty-five minutes anyhow, they won’t find anything fishy going on.” He yawned and wiped his eyes, taking another sip of coffee. “Man, that’s good coffee.”

    “You shouldn’t be drinking that. You’ll contaminate your blood and urine samples.” Naos warned.

    “Fuck them. I’ll piss all over them with my contaminated urine, and if they hit me, then I’ll spit on them with my contaminated blood.”

    “Helios, what’s gotten into you all of a sudden?” I asked.

    “Everything!” He finished his cup of coffee and poured himself another. “I told you. I was up the entire night on the Gemini Database; they still haven’t deleted Dr. Rowland’s account. Can you believe it? Anyway, I was looking everywhere I could, any new area that I could find. You don’t know how much I know now, you just don’t know.” He shook again as he gulped down his second mug and went for another, but I grabbed his arm before he could.

    “Maybe you should go and rest, bud. We have a big day today.” I recommended to him calmly.

    “I will, I will! If they suspected what any of us were doing, they’d kill us for sure.”

    “They wouldn’t go so far as to kill us. You’re overreacting.” I said.

    “You don’t know what I know. You don’t understand!”

    “Then make us understand, ok?” I shook him by the shoulders. “Makes us understand. What did you find out last night? Helios, are we in danger? Should we start packing our bags?” I asked, Naos and I anticipating the answer. His lips parted and he was about to speak; I knew he was going to say something important. I looked into his eyes and awaited his answer. In his blue eyes I saw intrinsic fear in his eyes. Come on Helios! You know something. We’re your friends. You need to tell us. Please tell us. I have to know if I really have to start worrying, if this isn’t just fun and games anymore, not just looking for little passwords and cute security bypass methods. Is the danger that we have been feeling in the past twenty-four hours real? Is it justified?

    “I…” He was about to say something, but he cut himself off and looked behind us. Something interrupted him and when we turned around to see, sure enough our father was awake. He walked into the kitchen with his robe on and noticed the three of us standing there.

    “Hey, guys. What are you doing up this early?” He asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

    “Oh, hi, Dr. Ellis! I just wanted to show these guys a new program I made for Crossfire.” Helios jumped in, not hesitating in search for a lie. He obviously has planned on something like this happening. “You see, if you just connect the first and second circuits of the matrix mainframe in series and the four and fifth circuits in parallel then the game’s parameters will increased steadily as a function of time. Now you might be telling yourself that it’s the same, but you see that was a linear function and this was hyperbolic, which means that you can…”

    “Sounds really interesting, and fun, but I should get to the Tech Lab to prepare for the testing today.” He finished his coffee and started back upstairs toward the shower. “Remember, you have to be in the Tech Lab by eight sharp.” Then, right before closing the bathroom door behind him.
“And take your pills!”

    “I’ll take my dosage, but I’m not taking pills to help me concentrate more.” I smirked. “Stupid, Dr. Brown, telling me I need help concentrating.” I turned to looks at Helios, but noticed he and Naos were already talking. No, I don’t need help concentrating! It’s just a bunch of strange coincidences; I don’t have a problem and nobody is telling me that I do.

    “Aurora, what’s the problem? Are you going to join our chat or what?” Naos asked with a grin on his face, then turned back to Helios.

    “So you made up all that programming stuff?” Naos asked.

    “Of course, I did.” Helios responded. “Have you ever heard of a matrix mainframe? Grownups are so disinterested in virtual reality games, I doubt he was even listening to what I was saying.”

    “Where’s Sarin?” I asked.

    “Probably sleeping.” Helios rolled his eyes. He stayed up half the night with me, then went to bed. Don’t worry, he doesn’t need that much sleep, as I don’t need any!” He chuckled. “I’m sorry I woke you guys up so early, with your father around I don’t think we’ll have enough time to talk fully.

    “At the least, tell us if we should be worried about something.” I pleaded with him, wanting some sort of an answer.

    “I don’t know yet. Maybe.” He started head towards the front door. “Look, we’ll talk at the end of the day. Everyone is out analyzing all of their data and making graphs and charts, so we’ll have some privacy and plenty of time to talk. See you boys later.” Helios opened the door and left, leaving us, if it was even humanly possible, as confused and paranoid as ever.

    Naos and I readied ourselves and were down in the Tech Lab waiting room by eight. The Tech Lab was very large, had many rooms, and, for the most part, was extremely complex. Each new room we were going to be led through as the day progressed just added to the mystery further of the intricate maze. It was apparent that Gemini was overly prepared when dealing with the project, making sure it had every single type of resource that it would need available. In that sense, I suppose the complexity of the lab reflected the complexity of the project and testing. There was a room for each type of test and new scientists for each test or exam we were to be given. It was just an intensely thorough building for the purpose of the project.

    The tests were split into four parts: mental aggressive, mental passive, physical, and, the more skin-crawling, examination. That was the order that we followed as well, and the six of us were only together for the first and third parts.

    When Naos, Helios, Sarin, Iris, Nylin and I were all present at the facility, the head doctor, as he does every six months, calmly explains to us what our day will consist of and assure us that no harm will come to us. He goes on to say that they are doing this for the sake of research and to preserve the sanctity of the Technological Revolution and that we should humble ourselves, given the fact that we are contributing to the realm of science such important Information. For the first time in sixteen years, I felt as if he was talking to an atomic bomb or parachute tester, in which our brave efforts and the willingness to put our lives on the line for science will not go unnoticed. Well, there were two things wrong with that train of thought. Firstly, we had no choice. There was no willingness on our parts. If we refused then we would probably have gotten electroshock treatment or a lobotomy. Secondly, we wouldn’t be remembered for our efforts, because this is a TOP SECRET project and might be forever. The suicidal Dolittle bombing runs over Tokyo in World War II were eventually recognized! We won’t be labeled heroes or martyrs or achieve any great stance in the world. Our lifestyles were doomed from the start and I couldn’t believe I had not realized this sooner. I suppose one accepts the life he is offered as the norm; I couldn’t even imagine what it was like on the outside, what a normal life would be like. I knew it would be extremely different: we would have to get jobs, we wouldn’t have the luxury of getting almost any type of food or service we wanted, we would find it hard to make it in the real world, we would have to pay for things, we would have to learn how to drive, we would have to save our credits and bank accounts, we wouldn’t have to be watched all the time, we could take a trip to the moon or the stars, we could make friends, we could make love, we could experience, we could be free, we would be free.

    We were then led from the waiting area into a large room; the doors slid open for us after the doctor received a retinal and DNA scan. There was a large table with six chairs around it, one chair for each of us, along with electronic paper and pens to write with. This was the first section of our testing for the day: mental aggressive. Lasting two hours, we were given a series of academic and cryptic, puzzle problems, both using our math and verbal skills. Each problem would appear on our screen at a time. When we completed that problem, the next one would digitize on our paper. If we were having too much difficulty with a problem, we also had the option of skipping it and going on to the next one. That’s all there was to it. Questions appeared and we answered them. The questions also got more difficult as we went on, so the first hour or so of questions was pretty much used in determining if our brains were working. The second hour though, was more interesting because we had to figure out equations or methods to answer certain questions. If one of us developed, by chance, a currently undiscovered equation to, let’s say, a physics problem, those equations would be recorded and taught in schools about the world. Of course, we didn’t receive credit for it, Gemini did. They appeared in annual booklets, submitted to the government, which contained Gemini’s progress for the year. There is no mention of the project or the six of us in it, though, but that’s the way it was. We all sat down and, as the two hours started, mechanically answered questions as we saw them.

    “I can’t believe I didn’t finish this time.” Sarin pouted as the four of us discussed the testing during our break. The lab scientists needed time to input our answers into the computer systems, so we were lucky enough to get a fifteen-minute break before individual testing. I didn’t think it was so bad, the testing. The puzzle questions are the ones that stump me sometimes, but I think I figured most of them out. By the look on Naos’s expression, when I glanced over during the testing, I could tell that it was a breeze for him.
The six of us were segregated into our groups, as usual. Iris and Nylin were having a discussion away from the four of us. I think it was more feasible to say that Iris was having the conversation and Nylin was either saying “yes”, “uh huh”, and “you’re right” along with nodding his head. Thank goodness Gemini only needed one female; I don’t think I’d have been able to handle two. Of course, one whipped male teenager could have passed for a girl. He really was pathetic at that, but I don’t judge…even though I should, because those two don’t really contribute to the project as much as the rest of us…unless they were supposed to be stupid in their genes, because I don’t think they can really put their minds on anything solid, unless gossiping is solid. I don’t even know how someone can gossip as much as Iris since she doesn’t know anything. Does she watch the channels with celebrity secrets and scandals or something?  Suddenly, I lost my train of thought. Naos had his hands on my shoulders and was giving me a small massage.

    “If you are staring at Nylin then I’m jealous.” He whispered into my ear. I could feel his hot breath. “If it’s the other one, then I’m having some trepidations about our relationship.”

    “Excuse me, I’m talking here. Is Aurora losing his mind again?” Sarin crossed his arms and glared in our direction.

    “He thinks they gave him a harder test than the rest of us.” Helios chimed in, reclining in his chair and putting his feet on the table. “I think there are just an unlimited number of questions. Cygnus just keeps making up new ones for us. That’s all. Computers can do anything!”

    “Are computers all you think about?” Naos said. He stopped massaging my shoulders for a moment, just as he was getting into it. He knew how sore I got from leaning over for two hours to take a test. I shrugged my shoulders to get his attention again and he started, in a seemingly involuntary reflex, again.

    “It’s the world we live in!” He exclaimed happily.

    “And how sad that is.” Sarin sighed.

    “Mankind strives for efficiency.” Helios replied. His eye twitched.

    “Efficiency brings sloth and laziness of the mind and body. Of course you seem jittery for someone who stayed up all night.” Sarin shot back.

    “Me? Jittery? Naa!” Helios said nervously, then turned to us. “I was going to show you that program I made afterwards?” He raised his eyebrows.

    “Yes you were, but only if you calm down.” I said.

    “I WILL be calm, guys. I will be.” He grinded his teeth together. “I’m just…so…excited about it.” He glanced over to one of the technicians, who walked over to our table and told us the order of our next test, which was mental passive. We each went to take it one at a time, alone. At usual, it was in alphabetical order. I was first, followed my Helios, Iris, Naos, Nylin, then Sarin. When they were ready for me, I stood up, kissed Naos goodbye, and went into the next room. It was a much smaller room, with only a chair and a viewing screen on the wall.

    “Please sit down and relax, Aurora.” A voice from a speaker spoke to me. I sat down, as instructed, facing the viewing screen. “Please remove your shirt and shorts and allow our technicians to place electrodes on your body.” I took off my shirt and shorts as two technicians, a young man and woman, both in their late twenties, took my clothes from my hands and placed electrodes on my back, chest, forehead, legs, and thighs. Without a word, and with my clothes in hand, leaving me in only my boxers, they left the room. “We will be monitoring your physical and emotional responses to what appears on the screen. Please look at every picture or video clip on the screen. To reduce experimental error, please do not look away from the screen for more than a moment, nor blink for long periods of time, unless you are forced to. Thank you for your cooperation.” Yeah, cooperation. They’d probably tie me down if they had to.

    All of the lights in the room flickered off and I was drowned in darkness. I covered my eyes as a bright light hit me from the front of the room; the viewing screen had been turned on. At first, it turned different shades of blue, then slowly morphing into green, then red, purple, and brown. I just sat still and watched the colors of the screen. I felt something in my gut cringe as I watched the colors, now all together in a spiral. I knew they were just colors, but I also felt as if something else was there as well. I shook it off and continued watching. The colors spiraled more and more until they all combined together and gave the impression of white. The screen then went completely white again. A moment later, an image of a brown puppy, playing with a ball in a grassy field, was shown to me. I smiled as I watched his play. The camera panned up to show the blue sky, a few clouds travelling by, an airplane flying through them in the distance. The camera panned back down and the puppy was gone, the balling still there, though, abandoned by the scamp.

    The scene changed now to an elderly woman in her home. She was in her kitchen, preparing to cook something in a pan the old fashioned way. I noticed that she had many old-fashioned things in her kitchen, such as a stove and light switches. I guessed that she was probably poor. There was no sound though, just this image. She wore old, battered clothing, and was quite wrinkled. Perhaps this was a video from a long time ago. I wasn’t sure whether this was real or not though. As far as I knew, it was real, but it could have been acted. Suddenly, the woman stopped cooking, leaving her pan on the stove. I couldn’t make out the food in the fan, but it looked good and homely. The woman went to the door and opened it, letting a man in. The man was in his thirties, wearing a brimmed hat and brown trench coat. They seemed to be having a regular conversation, both of them smiling. She seemed to be nodding as if he were asking her questions. The smile on her face then faded as the man kept asking her questions, his expression becoming angered. After some more questions, she couldn’t take it anymore and tried showing the man to the door, but he wouldn’t leave. He pointed a finger in her face and began yelling at her, no, threatening her! He pushed her and she ran to the pan and tried flinging it in his face. She was too weak to actually hit him in the face, but all of the food in the pan spattered all over him. He wiped in off and drew a knife on her. She tried to run, but he grabbed her by the shoulder and dug the knife into her back. She screamed out and keeled over, falling on the floor and twitching as her life force ran out. She tried reaching up to the man, who ignored her cries for mercy. As she grew weaker and weaker, the man ransacked her kitchen, looking in all of the cabinets and throwing kitchenware around, until he found an envelope full of money. I felt a little tinge in my stomach, the same as before. It was like nausea but I didn’t want to throw up. He flipped through the many bills and nodded in satisfaction, then tipped his hat at the woman, who was long gone, and left. The woman just laid there, lifeless, pots and pans flung around her messy kitchen, but she couldn’t do anything about it. She was dead. A small trickle of blood was running from her backside as the shot faded and the screen turned white once again. I felt saddened by what I had just seen, but for some reason I wanted to see more.

    A blurry picture appeared on the screen now. It was bright, but I could make out faint colors, such as black and skin-color. I assumed in was a person. The image slowly started coming into focus. More and more details of the person could be seen. Legs, thighs, head, arms. It was all there. A little more into focus and I knew what I was looking at. It was a nude female form! She was wearing nothing but a seductive grin on her face. A professional model she surely was. I had no choice but to turn away. I didn’t want to see this one bit. It was disgusting, neither something I wanted to see, nor was meant to see. But there she was, in all her glory. I wanted her to go away and never come back. She made me uncomfortable, making me cringe in my chair. I wished pain and death upon her. I would do anything if she would just go away. My eyes winced and just before I could scream out, the image disappeared and I felt normal again. I breathed a sign of relief. They were just testing my emotions, that’s all, testing my responses and see how far they would extend. It would be over soon enough.

    Another video appeared on the screen. It was a jungle setting, foggy. A soldier appeared from below, observing his surroundings and keeping alert as all times, clenching his projectile weapon. With a gesture from his hand, four more soldiers of lower rank scouted and secured the area. Behind them were a radioman and a medic, both of them sweaty, dirty, and tired. The leader stopped for a moment, examining the jungle surroundings, the vines and fog stretching on to what seemed like forever. The leader jumped suddenly as he heard a sound. He spun to his right and tried to discern what made that sound, although I could not hear what sound it was that he heard. The other men looked on, gripping their weapons, ready for a fight, as the leader crouched and tried to see if he could find his enemy. He wiped his forehead and pulled a vine out of the way, the radioman ready to call in an air strike if need be. The leader pulled more vines out and jumped back, screaming as a snake leapt out. He flung the snake away and sighed a breath of relief, smiling, as his men laughed at this folly. The leader shook his head and stood back up, smoking a cigarette, still smiling. I felt my stomach tinge before the man’s head sported a hole going through it and he fell to the ground, landing flat on his face, dead. The men rushed over to him and pulled his body out of the way, firing shots and throwing grenades in the direction he was shot in. The medic crawled over to his body and shook his head. Another man started shout orders as men fired blindly into the vast jungle, not knowing who or where to shoot, the radioman screaming over his communications system. Suddenly, a number of Asians, Vietnamese I was guessing, dropped from the trees as if appearing out of nowhere and brutally impaled the soldiers with their bayonets. They didn’t even have a chance of surviving. The medic panicked and helplessly fired into the crowd, trying to kill the Vietcong but mostly hitting his own, dying, men. The medic died trying to defend his men and his country. The radioman, I noticed, was shot in his shoulder and tried running away, but he did not make it that far either. The Vietcong troops, having lost no casualties, dragged the American bodies away and hid any trace that there was any sort of encounter there, then resumed their positions, lying in wait for the next company to arrive and meet it’s doom.

    The screen went blank again and I felt my heart pounding. That was so exhilarating! I had never seen war up-close like that. It was so real and gruesome yet…I enjoyed that too. Just the planning and execution of the Vietcong company’s plan of action sent goosebumps all over my body. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t turning into a Communist, but still…looking at footage that like showed the genius and skillfulness of their armies, as opposed to the young, American army, which didn’t even know what it was fighting for. I leaned back in my chair, taking a breath in, formerly having been on the edge of my seat and unable to breath throughout that short battle, that battle that I enjoyed watching so much. How could I enjoy something so horrible and disgusting, though?

    Before I could reason it out, the screen flickered again to show a top-down camera view of a shower. It looked familiar though. The black walls with white lining. Oh, it was our shower! No, wait…our shower? Then there was Naos, right outside the open shower door, stripping down and stepping into it. What the? I felt like I was spying on my own boyfriend, but there was something odd about it. I mean, it was him, at least I thought it was. They surely got his body right, though! Oh, they definitely did. But this was an invasion of privacy. This was grotesque and I didn’t think I wanted to watch it. I noticed his mouth moving, indicating the temperature of the water to the computer. The water then turned on and he started cleaning himself. I was instantly glued to the screen; I didn’t want to look away! He was just so adorable, so sexy. His eyes were closed as he took the soap and scrubbed every part of his body. Well, now I knew why they needed those electrodes on my inner thigh. I wandered where I was in this video. Oh well. My hands gripped the sides of my chair as my heart beat rapidly, not just from lust, but from love as well. I loved him more than anything in the universe. Suddenly, I felt that tinge in my stomach again as I watch. My eyes began to get a little bit sore, as well. I rubbed then and looked back quickly. Naos, my beautiful boy, was still there, but he stopped scrubbing. His faced had changed from being content to curious. He looked to the closed shower door, his eyebrows furrowed. It appeared as if he saw something or was looking for something. Who was it? Was it me? No. It must have been nothing at all, because he shook his head, shrugging, and went back to his shower. He put shampoo in his hair, scrubbed it, and started washing it out. As he was doing that, a dark figure appeared before the shower door. Naos couldn’t see him because his eyes were closed. The door flung open and two bright bolts of red light could be seen firing into the stall. Naos’s body flung against the shower walls and slid down slowly, lifeless. He was dead. Naos was dead! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Was he really dead? Was my wonderful boyfriend dead?

    “No!” I started screaming out. I couldn’t feel any oxygen in the room. I shot up and ran up to the screen, pounding on it with all my might, but it was just part of the wall and could not break. “It’s not true! It can’t be true!” I cried out and broke out into tears as the screen turned white again and a team of doctors rushed into the room to try and calm me down.

    He wasn’t really dead. Of course he wasn’t. It was just a simple simulation, as everything I saw was, used to test my range of emotions. I suffered some shock, but that was all. The memories of Naos’s death, even if it was just fabricated, would never leave my mind though. Why did they choose to make something as horrifying as that and make me watch it? To test my emotions. To test my humanity. I think my reaction was proof enough that I was as human as anybody else was. It was awful to watch though, seeing your entire world shatter before your eyes so swiftly and carelessly, just like that. Perhaps they were trying to scare us, to show us that we could be rubbed out and no one would ever know. Our existence only lies in a string of data records, not in the government. We don’t have a Social Security number, a driver’s license, or a birth certificate. We could be erased easily and quickly.

    Four more astonishing revelations took place that day, too many and close together in time to be any big coincidence. I was sure of that. None of us were; we weren’t morons. They made us too smart too soon and nothing short of a lobotomy could help that.

    The first occurred during Helios’s mental passive testing. Apparently, the researchers noticed that his pupils weren’t focusing on the video screen, even though he was looking at it the whole time. After some interrogation, he finally admitted that he could not see the screen all that well and thus had myopia. He figured it was due to his being glued in front of a computer too much. They assured him that during the examination, they would work on treating his eyes with lasers in order to correct his vision.

    The second occurred during Sarin’s mental passive testing. At certain moments during videos, he claimed that he was having headaches and “seeing things”. He guessed it was from drowsiness or dehydration, but the doctors said that they would check to see if anything was wrong during his examination. I didn’t tell anyone about the odd emotions I had felt during my mental passive testing, but in my mind I linked it to Sarin’s problem. He said that he had seen something that wasn’t there. So had I. Maybe he could detect something that I could not. But something appearing on the screen for a tenth of a second? What was the purpose of that? Subliminal messaging?  Perhaps, but what was the message? I didn’t know for sure. I had a feeling that it had something to do with my craving for violence, but I was not certain about that.

    The third and fourth occurred during our physical testing, which consisted of lifting weights to our maximum potential, holding our breath, running for long periods of time, running to see who was the fastest, and other endurance trials such as those. Basically, Gemini wanted to test the range of our bodies. Everything seemed to be going fine until we got to the big race. We had to race around the perimeter of the complex twice. I was in the lead at the time, way in the lead. I was pumping my legs as fast as I could, and confidence in me convince me that maybe I could run a little but faster. So I tried to, but then my legs started to stiffen up, as if I had large cramps in them, and I couldn’t move my legs. I couldn’t finish the race because I had, apparently, overexerted myself. They told me that they would try and help my legs cool off during my examination. Lastly, Naos learned that he has asthma. He was running as well and suddenly had trouble breathing, so he had to stop. And, of course, the problem would be dealt with during the examination. How perfect these all were. If we had known better, we should have made a run for it right then and there, because it was too late.

    I couldn’t remember the examination all that well because, to be honest, I was unconscious the whole time. We all were. We had a quick eye exam and test of reflexes, then all we had to do was lie back and breath in the gas. What they examined, poked, removed with sharp, pointed, blunt objects while we were asleep…I didn’t want to know. My body hurt afterwards, certain parts. I was just too scared to even think about what they did to us. Maybe they opened up our skulls and fumbled with our brains, perhaps they surgically removed our eyeballs or lungs. I never noticed any scars when I looked, but lasers could have easily covered those up. I didn’t want to know what they had done previous years, but this year, I needed to know. I needed to know what Gemini was doing to us, and what the Genome X project had in store for us. I didn’t want to become put on display for the circus to see: such are the marvels of science and how they created these six individuals! I wanted a choice, but I didn’t have one. I had to do what they said and live by their rules. That is why we had to create a secret option, take control of our own destinies. We were not to be made tools, or freaks, or lab rats. We were human beings! No matter what they said behind our backs, we were still human beings. I was also and American, and in that regard, I had my Constitutional rights to be able to receive life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If they would not give those basic rights to us, we would have to take them, at any expense necessary.

    The four of us made plans to meet at their apartment for dinner, as there was another meeting of the professors that night. Naos and I returned to our place to wash up, rest, and get ready. Both of us were tired from the day, quickly washing in the shower and collapsing on the bed. I felt that my legs were in pain when I was standing up, right after my examination. I have had serious cramps before, but this felt different. My legs felt heavy, and with every step I took, I felt as if I was walking into sharp blades. When I stopped moving my legs as I laid on the bed, the initial pain would stop, but I still felt tingling in my shins. It felt good, like endorphins, but this was better. My heart was beating faster and, at first, I couldn’t sleep, but I eventually did. Naos couldn’t sleep right away either. He was still having some trouble breathing, along with some expected chest pains. I didn’t know what they did to him, but I hoped that he would be fine as well. As he slept, I could hear him wheezing; he always slept silently, at least in the past…

    Hands were shaking me and I woke up. I opened my eyes and saw my father’s face. He was kneeling before me on the floor, in front of the bed. There was desperation in his eyes. I leaned forward, wiping my eyes, then looking at him again. He was still in his work clothes. His hair was messy and I could feel heat radiating from his body. I looked over; Naos was still asleep, his breathing having improved somewhat. I looked back to noticed my father gazing at the two of us. He looked back at me and smiled.

    “Did you want something?” I asked him innocently. He continued to smile as he spoke.

    “I just wanted to tell you something, Aurora. I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. I just wanted you to know that.”

    “Uhh…” I didn’t know what to say. It was so unexpected. “Thanks.” He was still smiling, but I knew him, and I knew something was wrong.

    “You are much wiser than that old man, Brown, gives you credit for.” He touched my forehead delicately. I could feel how clammy and damp his hands were. They were frigid as well. “They say Sarin is the smartest because of his IQ, but you don’t know how smart you truly are. You have more wits than he does, more street smarts. I think that you can be a survivor if you really wanted.” His eyes shifted to the camera momentarily, then back on me. His hands were trembling slightly. Nervousness. He came in close and brought his voice down to the softest whisper. “I know that you will be able to use those survival skills. You will protect your brother. He will need you more than you’ll need him. Especially in the basement of the Tech Lab. Don’t forget that place.” He then quickly returned to his original position and brought his voice to its normal decibel level. “You will all be Level 3 test experiments soon. Congratulations.” But he didn’t smile. His eyes pierced right through me. “You’ll know when the time comes. Not yet, but you’ll know when. I won’t be around, though. They’ll take over from that point on. Which is soon, ok?” He stood back up and I nodded. Then he backed up and looked at the both of us with silent admiration, finally pressing on the door panel, the door sliding open, then closing in front of him. I say there is awe at what had just occurred. Naos stirred in his sleep and wrapped his arms around me. I laid back down and held him tight until dinnertime.

    Hands were shaking me again, this time from my other side. I must have dozed off again while thinking to myself. Naos had shaken me awake furiously. I looked at him cock-eyed. Hairs were sticking up from his scalp irregularly. I sat up and tried fixing the hairs on his head. He smirked and ruffled my hair, then pinched me in the stomach.

    “Hey, hey! Watch it boy!” I yelped out, jumping from the bed and landing on my clothes on the floor. I could hear Naos giggling from the other side of the bed, getting dressed. I stood up and watched him dress as I did the same. When he was dressed, he stretched himself out and fixed his hair accordingly.

    “Come on, we’re have to get going.” He said as I began slipping my shirt on, having put on the rest of my clothes. As I was to slip my arms into the appropriate holes, Naos jumped over the bed and tugged the shirt up over me, removing it completely. Before I could retaliate, he ran to the door, activated the door panel, and ran out, waving the shirt at me. I chased him out, wobbling at first because my legs felt like jelly, but I eventually caught up with him at the front door. He opened the door and ran down the corridor as I attempted to chase after him. My legs still hurt, so I was not able to catch up to him until he stopped, waking for the elevator to come down to our level and pick us up. There was a large grin on his face as I grabbed my shirt back from him, the door to the elevator opening in front of us. He stepped into it, tugging on my shirt, which I was grasping tightly, and pulling me inside with him. He pulled me against him tight, leaning against the back wall of the elevator, then leaned into me and kisses me on the lips long and hard. I felt as if my knees would buckle from underneath me, leaning into the kiss tenderly. He then leaned back and shoved me away, wiping his lips and leaving me in a daze. “Silly boy, put your shirt on!” He beamed a smile at me as he went into serious mode again and took care of the security procedures, sending us to Helios and Sarin’s level. A small jilt alerted me that the elevator was in movement momentarily. I could feel myself rising, the floor pushing up against my feet.

    “You are feeling better!” I chuckled as I slipped my shirt back on, then stretching my legs. “My legs still hurt.” He breathed in deeply, then exhaled.

    “Ahh, it’s like a whole new atmosphere in my lungs. It’s as if every breath was a new bottle of spring water!” We held on as the elevator stopped and the doors opened quickly. I pumped my legs forward through the corridor; I could hear Naos’s footsteps behind me.

    “My legs still hurt, in a funny way.” I wanted to freak out by how strange my legs felt, but I knew that would raise too much suspicion. I turned to look out of the side windows. The Sun was setting in the west, giving off a red and pink array across the sky. Some of the clouds lit up, turning bright colors to match the sky. It was a beautiful sight to behold. I wished I could see it from the outside. Perhaps just close enough to be able to touch the Sun and collect some of the majestic wonders. “Beautiful.” I said softly as we reached the front door, the Sun leaving my eyes.

    “One day…” Naos whispered from behind me and put his arm around me, as if he could tell what I was thinking, or at least wanting the exact same thing. The front door opened to a dark apartment. Helios appeared from behind the door, squinting his eyes and half-covering them, as if shielding them from a bright light.

    “Hey guys.” He said in a scratchy voice. “Come on in.” He was looking down at us as he spoke. We entered his home and he quickly shut the door behind us, leading us to the upstairs. The entire apartment only had dimly lit lights on, nothing more. “Sorry about all this. My eyes are a bit sensitive right now, but on the upside, I can see much better.” He smiled weakly as he led us to the upstairs. I turned my head to try and make out Naos’s features. He was looking back at me as we exchanged glances. “Sarin’s head has been hurting him, so he’s in our room, resting on his bed. That boy…”

    “Is it safe to talk?” I whispered as we entered his redesigned computer room. The computer screen was in fact pointed away from the camera, but it was completely inconspicuous. He turned on a dim light and sat down on his computer, pulling up chairs for us.

    “Yeah, I have speakers running from spliced up conversations. We have a good five hours. More than enough time.” He booted up his computer.

    “Good, because I only want to know two things.” I said sternly. He turned toward me with an eyebrow raised. I could see his eyes clearly now. They were much lighter than they had been before the examination. “What the hell they did to us and the access codes to the gate.” Helios covered his mouth as he began laughing.

    “What they did to us? That’s what you care about? How zealous.” He chuckled and started running a program on his computer. “I wish I knew the access codes. Remus must be the only one who knows them. If he’s told anyone else, it’s been in public and not electronically. It’s not in the Gemini mainframe, public message boards, private message boards, not even in the compound schematics. If it’s there…it’s hidden, but first things first. What I have to tell you before. He typed a few keystrokes and some data came onto the screen. Looking closure, I could see that it was data from a pathogen.” He pointed to the screen. “But there are juicier things that I have found out. Are you ready to know more about our Gemini friends?”

    “Definitely.” Naos shot back and Helios nodded expectedly.

    “Good.” He pointed to the screen. “In high security domain here it talks about a newly developed virus. One that blends in with the bloodstream so that it is undetectable to doctors and white-blood cells. From what I can gather, it travels through the body just as blood would. Then it enters the heart…”

    “Wait a second. Gemini just created a virus?” I asked skeptically.

    “Yep! It was funded by Gemini anyhow. Very hush, hush because of how deadly it is.” Helios remarked.

    “How long does one have before it kills you?” Naos asked. Helios paused and closed his eyes. Then opened them.

    “A few minutes.” He sighed. “It has to be injected by needle, right into the bloodstream.” It’s not contagious, but it will kill you.”

    “By destroying the heart?” I asked.

    “No. See, this is where the genius of its design comes in. It induces a heart attack! The person collapses and dies. It looks JUST like a heart attack.”

    “No…” I gasped.

    “Dr. Rowland!” Naos snapped his fingers.

    “Exactly.” Helios nodded.

    “They killed him? Why?” I squealed, not believing what I was hearing.

    “Yes. I’m afraid I don’t know. I’m sorry. Remus is the only one who knows.” He leaned back in his chair, letting the light from the computer screen flood his face as he squinted, even though the light wasn’t that bright. “Do you want to go deeper? Do you want to know the truth? What will become of us once we are Level 3’s?” Helios asked. I was clutching the edge of my seat desperately.

    “Yes, Helios! I must know!” I begged.

    “I have some data, but it is limited. To tell you the truth, I have no straight answer yet.” He sighed. “I’ll tell you what I can, but…” Before he could finish, Sarin burst through the door, clutching his head.

    “Computers won’t help you this time, Heli.” He gritted his teeth. “I know the complete, unadulterated truth now. You don’t even know the half of it, you twit. I don’t even know where to start.”

    “How would you know so much?” Helios shook his head, rolling his eyes.

    “Call it a good hunch, but I’ll honestly tell you, ever since my fucking head started hurting, I’ve seen a lot of shit. Some stuff I wasn’t even supposed to see. I could see your whole conversation from the other side of the apartment. I could see Aurora gazing at the pink sunset from the corridor.” Sarin closed his eyes and clutched his head tighter. “I can see right now, Duncan is killing Dr. Rowland. He didn’t even see it coming, the poor bastard! Duncan has a syringe in his hand. He is creeping up behind him in the shadows. You didn’t know how close you really were, Helios. You are just stepping outside, gazing at the stars, breathing in the fresh air. You have no fucking clue what’s going on, but you look so happy, too. Misery is bliss, I guess.” He laughed. “Duncan is right behind Dr. Rowland, who is reading up some reports on his data thing. In a swift motion, Duncan readies his weapon, finds a nice clean vain on his victim, and…and…” Sarin screamed out loud, quivering and dropping to the ground. “Helios he could have killed you! You don’t know how close you came!” He screeched as we heard the shattering of glass. He stood back up, completely out of breath, his head stooped forward. He palm of his hand was on his forehead. “I’m done with my magic show. Sorry about the glass. Don’t worry, it’s just a cup. If you’re ready to listen now, Helios, then listen, because we don’t have much time to screw around.”

<7:15 Camera Off>

Hope you enjoyed the third chapter in my series. Please tell me what you thought of it. I order you! ;)



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