Disclaimer: I own nothin'.
Author's Notes: Here's a fun little side project I'm sure none of you were expecting, eh? I've had writer's block with Semper Invicta lately, and in all honesty, I need to start experimenting with breaking away from canon source material and making my own waves. Unfortunately, the roadmap for that story doesn't leave a lot of room to improvise (for now, anyway), so I figured… why not start something new? Something I can just mess around and have fun with; that I won't take as seriously as my other story?
One impulsive download from the Xbox store and a drunken party with my co-workers later, I found the perfect two games to help inspire me. They fit so well together, it's like they were meant to be married!
On a side note, most of the story (read as: about 80%) will be told from Alcatraz/Prophet's first-person perspective. A bit different from what I usually do, but like I said, I want to experiment.
Also, I'm not going to be following Crysis: Legion's lore by the letter. A few things I didn't like about the book (such as Alcatraz's heart not being repaired… the defibrillator was a cool idea in-game) will be retconned, as well as a few other minor mistakes throughout the series' overarching plot.
"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live."
[Date: 02/09/2062, 06:33 hrs.]
[Subject: Sgt. James "Alcatraz" Rodriguez, U.S. Marine Corps, Force Recon (1231239E/1230A AC)]
Initialization complete. Systems online.
Warning: Power fluctuations detected. Initiating power reroute subroutine.
Subroutine complete. Stand by for internal diagnostic scan.
Warning: Unauthorized modification to hippocampus detected. Critical assimilation failure. Stand by for re-assimilation.
Error: Failure to re-assimilate. Status: 14% complete. Beginning immediate reb/#14G69KCT&TR1N-
Overwrite accepted. Stand by for external diagnostic scan.
Warning: External temperature reading at -50°C. Recommend immediate relocation.
Warning: External temperature reading at -38°C. Recommend immediate relocation.
Warning: External temperature reading at -25°C. Recommend immediate relocation.
Warning: External temperature read/$CC-
That damn AI gets on my nerves sometimes. Heh heh… I guess God gave you a third chance to live, huh, marine?
Now go out there and make it count.
Looking back, my awakening was nowhere near as glorious as it would've been if I were in a movie or video game, even though my life has a recent tendency to mingle a bit too close to what most would call fictional territory. Someone out there probably thinks I dramatically emerged from the cloud of mist surrounding the cryo-pod I'd been entombed in standing tall and proud, awake and alert, donned in the ultra-high-tech CryNet Nanosuit 2 and ready to kick ass at a moment's notice.
That couldn't have been farther from the truth.
I don't remember much about the first few seconds. I only recall the sound of mechanical restraints groaning in protest as they shift aside, the hissing rush of cold air escaping through the cracks as the opaque door slowly creaks open, and the wet splat of my body hitting the ground with all the grace of a dead fish.
"Argh, fucking balls…!"
My first words in this new era, forced out through chattering teeth and lungs starved of oxygen, also could've been a bit more… mature.
I instinctively curl into a fetal position, wrapping my arms around my legs, shivering on the cold metal floor. I don't know how much time passes as I desperately try to warm myself up, but it's long enough for my sleep-addled brain to eventually realize that something is very, very wrong. Something that causes my labored breaths to suddenly freeze.
I'm as naked as the day I was born. Ordinarily this wouldn't be too unusual – not by your typical sci-fi standards, anyway – except for one crucial detail: the Nanosuit is missing.
Back in New York during the height of the Ceph invasion, I'd been reduced to a pile of shredded meat and broken bones after what should've been a fairly simple extraction mission went horribly sideways, courtesy of our not-so-friendly neighbors from outer space. It was only thanks to the timely arrival of Prophet, along with his 'gift' of the Nanosuit 2, that I was able to survive.
Prophet. My freezing lips subconsciously contort into a snarl. The man who bestowed upon me a blessing and a curse in the form of that wretched suit. The man who passed the torch over to me, a simple grunt in the Marine Corps, with a proclamation that destiny was a bitch and how the fate of the city now rested on me.
The man who apparently decided that I hadn't done a good enough job, and forcibly hijacked my own goddamn body from me!
…No, I tell myself, taking several deep breaths. That's not true. Not entirely. Neither of us could've predicted how the alien armor would've fucked with our heads.
I somehow have control again, though, and that's all that matters now. Prophet can go fuck himself until the neurons in my head return from vacation.
Dammit, I'm getting sidetracked.
The Nanosuit catapulted me from your average cannon fodder to a one-man army. It gave me the strength to kick taxi cabs across half a city block. It was durable enough to shrug off a direct hit from an anti-tank round. It allowed me to track enemy movements and weapon emplacements, and even let me slip in and out of the most heavily fortified checkpoints with its built-in cloaking module – and those were just the more immediate features.
The suit gave me everything I needed to stop the invasion. And against all odds, against the overwhelming technological superiority of the Ceph and the zealous drive for vengeance fueling CELL's Commander Lockhart, I succeeded.
Of course, as the Laws of Bullshit dictate, power on that scale doesn't come without penalty.
During my brief time in possession of the N2, I was crushed when I learned from a hostage CELL technician that I was clinically dead after the horrific wounds I'd sustained in Battery Park's harbor. And as if that wasn't terrifying enough, the suit was literally seeping into my flesh, breaking down less vital organs to mend the needed ones. As a consequence, if it were ever to be removed or powered down, I'd kick the bucket in about thirty seconds tops.
I was it and it was me. We are legion.
Were legion. It's gone now, somehow, as are my injuries. I can breathe without the terrible feeling of blood spilling into my tattered lungs. I can move my legs again. I can talk. Haven't done that in a while – almost forgot what my voice sounds like without an electronic filter turning my words into cyborg speak. The suit is gone, but I'm miraculously still alive.
I know I should feel happy. Instead, all I feel is… numb. This isn't happening. This can't be right. I died in that suit; I'm a thousand percent sure I did. Death isn't something you just wake up and walk away from.
Still huddled on the ground, my eyes flicker back to the open cryo-pod. I don't see surgical instruments anywhere near it, so how was I healed? Come to think of it, since when did cryotechnology come this far? I don't think I've ever seen a-
Pain explodes in my skull out of nowhere. I shut my eyes as tightly as I can and clench my teeth, moving both hands to cradle my head, but it's not helping jack shit.
Brief images lasting a fraction of a second each flash through the overwhelming agony assaulting my mind. I see… a cold place. My hands are pressed into snow, still protected by the Nanosuit. I'm staring down the barrel of a Jackal combat shotgun, held by an African-American woman staring me down with a look of twisted hatred, her index finger itching towards the trigger-
The pain subsides as quickly as it comes.
Panting for breath, I open my eyes and roll over onto my back, staring up at the grimy ceiling overhead. The lights are dim, occasionally flickering. Thankfully they aren't intrusive enough to be a burden on my aching senses.
I haven't felt that kind of torture since Hargreave tried to skin me alive.
"What the fuck was that…?" I mumble into the gloom.
That strange flashback… that's a memory, I gather, although it definitely doesn't belong to me. Prophet's, maybe? What, did he decide to piss off everyone he met (again) while he was running around in my corpse? Just what the fuck is going on here?
Pull yourself together, Sergeant, I tell myself shortly. You've got more pressing issues right now. Like finding out where the hell you are and how you got here.
Shoving all thoughts of the late Army Ranger aside, I roll over again and barely make it to my knees when the sound of crackling static catches my attention. I whip my head around, searching for the source of the noise, until my focus settles on a large, dusty computer screen mounted on the opposite wall of my icy prison.
I blink when a grainy face materializes into existence. It looks like a young girl, ranging anywhere from her mid-teens to early twenties, with curly black hair tied into twin ponytails. Innocent as she first appears, the rebreather concealing the lower half of her face is my first clue that something is off about this chick.
The way her cold, dead eyes fixate on me is the second.
"You're awake." She notes, sounding about as enthusiastic as a person would be if they won a penny from a scratch-off ticket. "I guess restoring the main power grid triggered a failsafe somewhere. Hmph… inconvenient, but not a problem."
My first reaction is to angle my body in a position where she can't see my schlong. If she noticed what I was doing, she doesn't comment on it.
"Who… Who are you…?" I ask her, confused and cautious in equal parts.
Evidently that was a mistake. The girl's eyes narrow into slits, regarding me with a look of utter contempt.
"Don't ask questions of me, filth!" she hisses through her mask. "You were supposed to remain asleep while we came to retrieve you! Ugh, you humans can never do anything right."
I have so many questions about those last two sentences.
Who the fuck is this chick? Where does she want to take me, and for what purpose? Why am I supposed to stay asleep? How did I end up in that pod, anyway? Even more ominous, what does she mean by "we" and "you humans"?
Concluding that it's probably Prophet's fault for at least one of those questions, I narrow my eyes back at the girl and say the first thing that comes to mind. "Yeah, well, fuck you too, you narcissistic bitch."
Briefly relishing the surprised expression overtaking her features, I continue, "You have no idea who you're dealing with right now. Trust me. If you want me to cooperate, then you'll treat me like a goddamn human being, got it? Otherwise, point me towards the exit."
My bold response elicits a raised eyebrow.
I pray like crazy that she won't see through my bluff.
She must know something important about me; it has to be my connection to the Nanosuit, because why else would she come for me? Actually… why come searching for me at all? I don't have the suit anymore, as she should clearly see. I'm just an ordinary average Joe human again. So why the interest?
I'm gambling that if I at least pretend to act more dangerous than I really am, she'll take me a little more seriously and maybe not brush my inquiries aside.
Eventually, after a minute of thoughtful silence, she speaks.
"I am treating you like a human being," the girl scoffs. She leans closer to the screen, boring into me with those soulless eyes. "Listen to me very carefully, filth. You will wait where you are until my comrades arrive to restrain you. I've already relayed your location to them, so they should be there any minute. You will go back in your pod, and you won't wake up again unless we deem it fit. Whether or not by choice, you WILL cooperate. Do I make myself clear?"
My fists clenching at my sides, I scathingly grind out, "Yeah. Understood."
"Good." She leans away from the screen, and I have a feeling she's smirking victoriously beneath her facemask. Bitch. "My creators went through a lot of trouble hiding you away, you know. Master will be most pleased when I bring you back to headquarters." The girl pauses, seemingly pondering over her next statement, before deciding it's indeed worth mentioning. "And just for the record… I know exactly who I'm dealing with. If it were up to me, I would've had you vaporized on the spot, but… well, Master is adamant about your importance to the plan. See you soon…"
She cuts the feed, leaving me isolated once more.
Not for long, I grimly realize. If what she's claiming is true, some likely unscrupulous company is headed my way, and if I don't want to end up back in the freezer, I need to find a way out of here, pronto.
Wherever here is.
I finally take the time to study my surroundings. I'm in an average sized room, for starters. The walls, ceiling, and floor are all made of solid metal and caked with a thin layer of grime, leading me to deduce that no one's been in this room for a very long time. There are a few large shelves and pieces of lab equipment propped against the walls, all of them coated with dust. Nothing is overturned or out of place, so I don't have to worry about stepping on needles or broken glass or whatever else, but that's a small luxury at best.
There's a transparent sliding door with a numbered keypad directly left of the cryo-pod, so I decide to start there.
Entering random numbers yields no results besides angry beeping. I check the space around the keypad, hoping someone might've written the combination on a scrap of paper and hidden it somewhere, but my search proves just as fruitless.
Punching the door doesn't work, either. The hexagonal pattern that spreads from my fist's point of impact informs me it's made from solid nanoglass.
Fucking Hargreave, I think with a sharp scowl. Even in death, the old man seems to have made it his personal mission to subtly fuck with me. I'd have better luck trying to tunnel out of here with a plastic spoon than force my way through the door.
Hang on a moment…
I turn to inquisitively eye the shelves. It's definitely a longshot, but I don't have any other ideas, and my gut's telling me that time is quickly running out.
I'm halfway over to the largest shelf when I spot the metallic glint of an object resting on it. When I'm close enough to see what it is, the soldier in me can't resist smiling like an idiot.
An M12 Nova light handgun, complete with a full magazine. If I have to take a guess, it was probably put there in case I woke up and didn't want to go back to sleep, or didn't react well to whatever evil experiments were no doubt performed on me. Although it wouldn't help me escape the room, the feeling of the Nova's polymer grip as I take it into my hand brings a calming sense of safety I haven't felt since awakening.
I smile wistfully as I examine the pistol, turning it this way and that, inspecting it for any wear. This is the same model weapon I used after first acquiring the Nanosuit and venturing out into the infested alien cesspool that was New York City.
The same weapon Prophet used to off himself…
Stop. You can't let yourself get distracted, Alcatraz, my brain scolds me.
Right, back to business. Gently setting the pistol down on top of an adjacent lab device, I wrap the shelf in a bear hug and take a deep breath, preparing to heave it off the floor with all my strength.
It comes up way too easily. I stagger backwards a couple of steps, barely managing to avoid falling over and pinning myself under the heavy object. I consider myself lucky for not tripping over my feet.
Have I always been this strong, even without the Nanosuit? I chalk it up to either adrenaline or more crazy experiments. Who the fuck knew what happened to me during… however long it was I was unconscious?
A loud clang echoes through the room as I drop the shelf down a few feet away. Sure enough, my suspicions are confirmed: an air duct is conveniently hidden behind the shelf. Better still, the grate is stuck in a way that I can easily pull it free.
I silently thank all the puzzle-centric survival horror video games I played in my youth.
Another thought occurs to me while I go to retrieve the Nova; what if that crazy chick shows up on the monitor again? What would she do when she saw I wasn't there anymore?
Fortunately, the answer is simple this time, and it involves throwing a piece of random machinery that resembles a super-advanced lava lamp through the screen. Check in on me now, bitch.
The shelf I'd moved comes in handy, too, blocking my makeshift escape route from the glass and sparks spraying down from the destroyed computer. Totally meant for that to happen. Wasting no more time, I swiftly move back to the air duct, pry the grate open, then crawl on my stomach into the open space, leaving the bleak room I'd been trapped in behind.
I have no clue where I'm going and I really don't give a shit. All that matters now is getting as far away as possible from the room where that strange girl is expecting me to be waiting obediently.
Yeah, right. I snort in disbelief, kicking up a small cloud of dust coating the inside of the vent. As if I, a Force Recon Marine who almost single-handedly prevented a horde of pissed off aliens from killing the human race with a genetically engineered super-virus, would listen to a girl who looks like the spawn of Darth Vader and an anime character.
Okay, I'll admit I would've listened if it was a Sith Lord who ordered me to wait. I like Star Wars – sue me.
My point remains, however. And as I keep up my slow pace through the air duct, I can't stop my thoughts from wandering back to the girl on the screen.
Almost nothing she said made sense to me, and the few things that did give the impression that she's a servant to some higher authority who's taken a vested interest in me. And while I don't know what her so-called "Master's" sinister plan is, her flippant attitude and total lack of human decency (or in simpler terms, "evil bitchiness") is enough evidence for me to surmise that I really don't want to find out.
I somehow doubt it'll be anything pleasant.
After several more minutes of navigating through various twists and turns, moving as quietly as possible so I won't alert any potential hostiles, an exit appears in the form of another grate. I carefully crawl over and manage to knock it loose without much resistance.
I emerge into a restroom lined with stalls. Rising to my feet, I lift my arms over my head and give my body a good stretch, sighing in bliss when I hear a plethora of satisfying cracks. Damn vent was more cramped than it looked.
Once I'm limbered up, I take a glance around the bathroom, searching for anything that might be useful. There isn't, and a quick check of the stalls doesn't yield anything, either. Pretty much what I'd expected.
Might as well clean myself up, then. I walk over to one of the sinks, turn the knob… and grimace when some type of thick brown sludge gurgles out of the faucet.
I sigh. Right, this place seems to have been abandoned for quite a while. It's highly unlikely that the plumbing would've held up without proper maintenance. Stupid, stupid Alcatraz…
Slightly bummed that my short streak of good luck came to an end, I turn the faucet off and instead gaze at my reflection in the cracked mirror above the sink.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family, I never had time to put much stock into my appearance – a fact that transitioned into my adult life, I note as I take in my facial features. Short brown hair that rarely sees a comb. Lightly tanned skin; a combination of four years spent toiling under the sun in the Marines and my own one-quarter Hispanic heritage. A standard five o'clock shadow. Bright blue eyes that almost seem to glow in the dim light. All in all, I look exactly the same as I did back when my squad and I boarded the-
Wait a minute… Something isn't right.
My eyes have always been green…
I lean closer to the mirror, blinking several times to confirm what I'm seeing. Sure enough, my eyes somehow switched from a murky green color to an energetic shade of blue. They almost look… artificial. What the fuck…? How did this happen? What caused this, and for what reason?
There's another tally mark on the growing list of things wrong with me…
I study my reflection for another minute, turning my head in different directions, never breaking my gaze away from those unnatural blue orbs. At one point, I pause to rub my eyes before looking back into the mirror.
The face staring back at me isn't my own.
"HOLY FUCK!" I stumble backwards like I'd just been shoved by a 'roided-up bodybuilder. I barely catch myself against a stall, holding one hand over my heart which is threatening to burst out of my chest, before sliding down to sit on the tiled floor. I'm vaguely aware of my pistol clattering to the ground next to me.
I'm shaking so badly I can hear my teeth chattering again. No way… there is absolutely no way I just saw what I did. It's fucking impossible. Just not possible…!
When my hands stop shaking enough for me to regain control, I bury my face into them – or at least, I hope it's my face, and not the one belonging to the ghost in the mirror.
"What the fuck is going on?" I moan despairingly.
This is all too much for me. First I wake up naked in some kind of abandoned facility, then I immediately find out I'm being hunted by an unknown faction for God knows what reason, and now this…? How do I react? What the hell am I supposed to do?
Keep going, the rational side of my mind – the subconscious voice I always listen to for advice when times are tough – informs me. Keep moving forward, because there's nothing else you CAN do.
I exhale a breath I hadn't known I'd been holding. As much as Marine Corps training was a slog through hell, it taught me a lot of valuable lessons, including how to keep your mind focused during stressful encounters. And I'm not just any run-of-the-mill marine. I'm Force Recon, dammit – I can't afford to let myself get spooked by supernatural mumbo-jumbo like this. Not when I have a mission to complete.
It could also just be my imagination playing games with me, I also figure after a moment. Maybe I'm stressed or was given some type of medication that tricked my brain into seeing things that aren't real.
Nodding slowly to myself, I take a few more calming breaths, then grab my sidearm and get to my feet on slightly unsteady legs. I risk looking back at the mirror, letting out a small sigh of relief when I see my own haggard image in the glass.
I exit the restroom without any further incident, emerging at the end of a long, empty hallway. The only way forward is to my right, so that's where I go. Maybe now I can start finding answers about where I am and how I can get out of here.
Anything to distract me from the mental image of Prophet's face staring unnervingly into my own, sharing those same blue eyes.
I keep the Nova pointed in front of me at all times as I wander deeper into the facility. My movements are careful and deliberate; I haven't forgotten how the black-haired girl on the monitor said she had others coming to fetch me. I also make a conscious effort to keep my footsteps quiet so I won't tip off the welcoming party in case they're close by.
One advantage of being naked? No ruffling of clothing and accessories to give you away when you're trying to be stealthy.
Still, some pants wouldn't have hurt. My pistol only came with one loaded magazine. How am I going to carry more around if I find any?
I make a mental note to grab some clothes if possible before reaching the exit. Unfortunately, my sweep of the rooms lining either side of the hallway turns up nothing except empty cubicles and more defunct lab equipment. I do find a few tablet-like devices here and there – datapads, a voice in the back of my head whispers – though their batteries are long dead, as I find out when I try to access them.
Come to think of it, there's a lot of valuable stuff laying around here, I muse as I slide the door to another room open (thankfully, none of the rooms bar the one I woke up in have nanoglass or security panels). Whoever worked here must've left in a hurry before they could pack everything up.
I wonder if the girl from earlier had a clue as to what went on here… hmm. I don't think she would've told me even if I'd asked nicely.
Nothing but more junk with no discernible identifiers to its owners in here. I sigh again as I leave, partly out of frustration, but mostly because I'm on edge. Every attempt at picking through my disjointed memories to try and figure out how I'd gotten here rewarded me with nothing but hazes of color and a throbbing headache. It's like someone had taken all of my recent memories, crammed them into an industrial-strength blender, threw in some morphine because why the hell not, then set the blend speed to motherfucking wumbo.
To rub even more salt into the wound, there are barely any maps or signs around to help me navigate, and the few I do find aren't helpful at all. Just basic safety warnings about handling dangerous lab equipment and shit like that. To make matters worse, the signs are all printed in what I'm appalled to see is five different languages – English, Russian, Chinese, German, and Spanish, in descending order. If they'd all been written in one language, it could've at least helped me narrow down where I might be geographically.
The only silver lining to this mess is that it doesn't look like CELL's handiwork. If they want me dead, then why am I not already? If they wanted the Nanosuit, then why bother putting me on ice after it was removed? So I could become their fucking guinea pig? Admittedly that's a very sound theory, but my doubts still linger.
Besides, if this was indeed a CryNet facility, then I'm absolutely certain I would've seen their logo plastered on every object in sight. It's like their leaders are afraid that the bumbling little minions they fielded would forget whom they worked for if they don't do so otherwise.
I shiver. This place is cold, both figuratively and literally. Uninviting. Alien. Endless.
As much of a nightmare as it was to deal with at times, I find myself wishing for the Nanosuit's protection.
There's no Heads-Up Display – or Brain-Up Display, as I prefer to call it – on my visual cortex telling me where to go and how much ammo I have left. No armor to bulldoze through hostiles or cloak to sneak past them. Nothing. Strange bodily quirks aside, I have no way to defend myself other than a low-caliber pistol with twenty rounds.
I hazard that the suit isn't in this facility anymore. If it is, then the weird chick's Sith Master either must have it secured already, or somehow deluded herself into thinking I'm the higher-value target.
At one point I trip over nothing and smack into the floor, sending a loud echo down the empty hallway. Cursing under my breath, I swiftly get back up and wait, straining my ears for any sign of approaching footsteps. None come forth. The facility remains as quiet as the grave.
Deciding not to take any chances just in case, I dart into the closest room and shut the door behind me.
My breath hitches when I turned around and see what's inside with me.
There's a woman's corpse laying on an operating table, illuminated by a bright lamp shining directly onto it. The fact that there's a lit computer screen somewhere behind it doesn't register at first; I'm too busy staring at the body with my jaw hanging open.
I've said it plenty of times before, and I'll keep saying it as long as it stays relevant: What the actual fuck.
The woman's appearance is even more bizarre than Sith Bitch's, and that's definitely saying something. While the rude girl looked like she came from the Star Wars universe, this chick would've been right at home in Tron.
She's got mid-length violet hair with the left fringe dyed a lighter shade of purple, and her closed eyes are partially hidden behind a visor. Her outfit is little more than a purple swimsuit that looks like it's one stiff breeze away from a fashion faux pas. I notice a pair of bullet holes right above her shapely chest; obviously the cause of death. Strangest of all, and what really catches my attention, is that both her forearms and most of her legs appear to be substituted with high-grade prosthetics, painted purple with the joints being colored a glossy shade of black.
My wrongness senses kick in again, and not just because, you know, there's a fucking dead body right in front of me. It takes a few seconds to put the pieces together, but realization soon dawns on me.
Her limbs are pinned to the table with thick metal clamps.
If she was killed before she was brought here… then why bother restraining her? I frown thoughtfully, pacing carefully around the unsettling scene as I examine her. Was she restrained and then shot? Why do such a thing? That doesn't make any sense!
None of this makes sense, I remind myself a moment later. Nothing's made sense since you woke up. Although you might be able to fix that if you stop standing there like a moron and keep investigating.
Good plan. I like it.
My eyes move to the functional computer in the far corner of the room. Working my way over to it, I grab a nearby office chair and sit down, eager to pry out the device's secrets.
Password locked. Of course.
I sigh for the umpteenth time, mulling over what to do next. I consider myself to be decently tech-savvy, having fixed a PC or two for neighbors before, but I'm no hacker. My only real option at this point is to hope that whoever worked on this computer was dumb enough to use one of those ridiculously easy-to-crack passwords.
As it turns out, the password is 'password'. It baffles me how someone employed at a place like this could be so damn unimaginative.
The desktop screen is about as barebones as you can get. Document folders, an icon for what I presume is a Web browser, and solitaire. And that's about it. The screensaver is what really catches my eye, however – a blood red background emblazoned with a black logo resembling a fireball.
Directly left of the logo are words that send shivers down my spine:
Sangvis Ferri, est. 2031
…Just how long was I asleep for?! I'd surrendered my body to Prophet in late summer of 2023! Was my consciousness really gone for a whole eight years? Longer, maybe?
Whatever happened to my friends and family? Alice? Chino? Gould? Lieutenant Strickland? Are they alive? Are they looking for me? Did any of them even realize I'd gone missing?
Acutely aware of my steadily rising heartbeat, I click on the browser and swear profusely when I learn there's no Internet connection. So much for using Google to read up on current events.
I click the documents folder next. Adding to my growing ire, a lot of the saved files are named in techno-babble I don't have the time or patience to decipher. Clicking on them produces a doozy of charts, statistics, and other scientific jargon that makes zero sense to me; forcing myself to calm down and not do anything rash, I keep scrolling, searching for something, anything that could give me a hint about what went on in this facility.
The search soon pays off – I stumble across a series of six files labeled "ProjectJournal".
My grin threatens to split my face. Jackpot.
I click the first entry and begin reading:
Dr. Robert White, Log Entry 1
Here at Sangvis Ferri Ltd., we've always prided ourselves on the affordability, and more importantly, efficiency of our products. Unfortunately – and it shames me to admit this, even in private – our automatons simply can't match the raw computational power of the ones manufactured by IOP, despite our best efforts to increase data storage capacity and compress non-critical internal subsystems.
But no longer. Starting today, I've been assigned to a new research facility populated by the most intellectually gifted men and women from across the globe with the goal of breaking the boundaries separating man and machine. And by a stroke of divine fortune, we've secured the perfect test subject to help us advance our studies… a veteran Nanosuit operator unlike any other.
My first reaction is to blink in utter confusion. Automatons? Breaking the boundaries…? I gather that this Sangvis Ferri is (or was) a corporation in competition with a rival; nothing unusual about that. Probably specialize in robotics, too, although that doesn't explain how they captured me (or Prophet) or what their ultimate plan is.
I click on the next entry:
Dr. Robert White, Log Entry 2
Fascinating – by simply disabling the limiters on the suit, Subject Zero has evolved into a three-way amalgamation; the pinnacle of symbiosis between humanity and technology. Medical data retrieved from former CELL laboratories also indicates that the suit was partially made from scavenged Ceph biotechnology… which, in retrospect, explains many of the frankly outlandish things it's capable of doing. Mentally triggering yourself to turn invisible? Preposterous! How in blazes did scientists back then convince anyone it was all humanly made?
As if I needed a reminder that my full-body cast was made from materials barely understood by the primitive minds of humans.
I hadn't known it at first – it was Nathan Gould who dropped that particular bombshell, though at the time I'd brushed half his ramblings off as the result of him being a half-crazed, sleep-deprived druggie – but the reality is that Nanosuits weren't just designed to be the pinnacle of military combat armor. Prophet's flashbacks helped shed light on their true purpose: weapons of war against those damnable space squids.
Purists like Lockhart who were stuck in the old ways could bury their heads in the sand all they wanted; humanity would've gotten its collective ass bent over and spanked in a fair fight against the aliens, planetwide unity or no. It's what happens when you pick a fight with a race whose tech is at least an eon ahead of your own. It's why Hargreave and Rasch stuck their necks out to develop the suits – to give us a fighting chance for survival. We would've been extinct by now if those two fossils hadn't thought to employ the Ceph's own assets against them.
It also made the revelation that the suit was fusing to my body… a bit harder to cope with. I shouldn't be human anymore, not fully. Makes me wonder again how Sangvis Ferri got the damn thing off without killing me.
I need to know more. I almost don't want to continue, but curiosity wins out in the end.
Dr. Robert White, Log Entry 3
Something strange happened when we extracted a DNA sample for study. By all accounts, we've been led to believe that Subject Zero's identity is Major Laurence Barnes, a former United States Army Ranger and one of the few survivors of the classified Lingshan Incident. However, the DNA taken from his blood didn't match any pre-existing samples. Perhaps the symbiosis has somehow altered his physiology on a genetic level? Dr. Rosenburg is having us cross-reference the sample with other known Nanosuit users, just in case.
On a brighter note, I've heard from a colleague that the project to reverse-engineer Ceph plasma weaponry is coming along nicely. With any luck, the implementation of these weapons with our own First-Generation Tactical Dolls will let Sangvis Ferri continue to hold an edge over our competitors.
My brows furrow. The first part is easy enough to explain; back when I first got the suit, Gould mistook me for Prophet for quite a while, so I wouldn't put it past the whitecoats to make the same mistake. What I don't understand is, what the hell is a Tactical Doll? Do they have any connection with the automatons mentioned before?
Dr. Robert White, Log Entry 4
Subject Zero continues to be full of surprises, both figuratively and literally.
We conducted a brain scan this week in an attempt to figure out how the subject's neural map adapted to the Nanosuit's biochemistry. The results that came back astonished us: not only has his mind completely merged with the suit, we found evidence of a second personality in the hippocampus. My suspicions – which Dr. Rosenburg earlier dismissed as wishful nonsense, I should add – have been confirmed. The man we're dealing with isn't Laurence Barnes; it's a man who thinks he's Laurence Barnes. Became Laurence Barnes.
Further study of the memory banks along with another DNA test identified this individual as James Rodriguez, or "Alcatraz" as he was known in the U.S. Marines. What puzzles me is that he isn't on the list of registered Nanosuit operators. My hypothesis is that Barnes transferred his suit to Alcatraz for unknown reasons at some point, but was unable to permanently sever its link to his mind. All I know for sure is that something terrible must've happened to this Alcatraz fellow if Barnes' personality copy was able to take over and achieve dominance.
Poor doc had no idea how right he was. I can still feel the phantom pain burning in my muscles… the horrible agony as the Ceph's flesh-eating virus buffeted me on all sides, tearing away at the Nanosuit's outer layer, hellbent on stopping me from reaching the heart of the hive… God, it felt like I was on fire, like I'd ventured into the depths of Hell itself.
The pain is the last concrete thing I remember before my memory fell apart. Though in hindsight, it would've been hard to forget.
Dr. Robert White, Log Entry 5
Continued analysis of Subject Zero's brain uncovered something interesting.
The original personality file, "Alcatraz", ceased uploading into the suit's database shortly after what we believe was a critical malfunction. Internal logs showed 42% corruption of the file; not even the Nanosuit could come up with a fix. If that's the case, then it's no wonder why Barnes' imprint was able to take control over the host body.
Maybe there wasn't a way to fix the instabilities back then, but "back then" was a long time ago. Times have changed. Hell, the whole reason we're doing this is to assist Dr. Reese with his advanced AI research. This could be the break we need! If there's any corporation up to the challenge of repairing a damaged personality file in a comatose super-soldier, it's Sangvis Ferri. Who knows what valuable information we could learn in the process?
"They… fixed me…?" I whisper.
These doctors and scientists at Sangvis Ferri… they spoke of me like I was a machine in need of repair instead of a person. I was a lab rat to them; nothing more, nothing less. And it was all done so they could achieve dominance in the fields of robotics and weapons manufacturing.
My grip on the mouse tightens. I feel my blood boiling as I begin to shake in barely restrained rage. I hate them. Hate them! I don't care if they fixed my damn brain – fat chance they would've let me go afterwards, or even woke me up!
For once, I find myself glad the facility is abandoned. It means their little project must've failed in the long run, otherwise this hellhole wouldn't be a damned ghost town.
I'm about to find out just how right that assumption is.
Dr. Robert White, Log Entry 6
Something's wrong. The Ripper unit we brought in for neural compatibility testing went berserk without warning. This wasn't because of the experiment – we hadn't even installed the prototype software yet, and I heard from Largo that the Dolls in the security wing also went out of control and started killing every human in sight indiscriminately. Chief Daniels was forced to place the whole area under lockdown.
I'll never again mock Cornell for carrying a pistol on him at all times. He saved us from a messy end, that paranoid nutcase.
Apparently this wasn't an isolated incident, either. We got a message from HQ that all Sangvis-produced Dolls have gone rogue and are rampaging across the continent. Something to do with Dr. Reese's creation, I don't know. The whole Union is in chaos. We've received orders to copy as much data as we can, scuttle the rest, and evacuate the facility before the Dolls discover our location.
To be completely honest, I still find it difficult to believe how screwed up the world's gotten in less than a half century. The Beilan Island incident, CELL taking over the world's energy supply, the Ceph invasion, yet another planetwide war… and now a full-scale robot revolution to top it off? Are you SHITTING me?
Ahem. Pardon my French.
If this is in fact some type of revolution, then they can't be allowed to find what's down here; the Ringleader models especially. They can't be allowed to find Subject Zero. If they get their hands on him… I dread to think what would happen.
We're leaving him here and erasing all records of this facility. As an additional safety measure, should the Dolls stumble across it by chance, we've rigged several mainframe systems to wake Subject Zero at the slightest infraction.
I went to look at him one last time. He's… changed. We succeeded in repairing the second personality file, but it ended up creating a split in his brainwaves. I think Alcatraz is taking over again. And the re-emergence of an old personality came with a body to match, as we soon found out.
I only wish we could've taken him with us. There's still so much left to discover…
The next fifteen minutes are spent finding another restroom so I can vomit my guts out.
My overloaded thoughts are temporarily pushed aside as retches and gagging noises emanating from deep in my throat echo through the stall. Nothing material comes out except flecks of spittle. If I were in a more lucid state of mind, I would've realized that I probably hadn't eaten anything in at least eight years and that there was nothing in my stomach to throw up. Doesn't mean I don't feel sick, though, I grouse as I wipe vestigial strands of saliva away.
I resume my aimless wandering shortly after my dry-heaving session is finished, not really paying much attention to where I'm going anymore. My legs are on autopilot: put one foot in front of the other, repeat until I'm outside. I become aware for the first time how stale the air in here tastes.
This is way too fucking much for my aching head to process. The handful of answers I'd gleaned from Dr. White's computer were vastly overshadowed by nightmarish revelations and even more straight-up dead-end questions.
Better to start unraveling the web of mysteries one thread at a time, I figure.
Okay. Let's start with me personally. Those Sangvis researchers somehow got my mind working again, so that's a plus. On the flipside, it seemed like Prophet wasn't ready to give up control for whatever fucking reason and chose to migrate into my human body with me. I don't know. The doc didn't go into detail about the procedures – classified shit that normies like me shouldn't understand, I guess – so there's always a chance I'm wrong about that.
I think back to my little break from sanity in the cryo-pod room, followed by the run-in with Prophet's likeness in the mirror. I pray I'm wrong. Pray those are lingering remnants of our connection and nothing more, and that they'll gradually fade away given enough time.
Oddly enough, there was never any mention of removing me from the Nanosuit. The doc must've skipped over that part.
Next subject: Tactical Dolls. Combat androids, or something similar. The dead woman on the operating table mustn't have been a woman at all; she was presumably the 'Ripper' that went haywire according to the logs.
My best guess is that Sangvis Ferri was studying my connection to the Nanosuit so they could develop a more sophisticated AI system for their Dolls. Is it a good guess? I like to think so. Is it the right guess? Don't know, don't really care. It's not important enough for me to dwell on-
I pause my stride through the corridor. Wait. One. Fucking. Minute.
Didn't Sith Bitch go on a whole rant about humans being inferior and how her 'creators' locked me away?
I'll say right now that I can be slow to grasp the obvious on occasion. Hell, when my adventures as a suited killing machine first started, it took me twenty embarrassingly long minutes to find an exit to the dockside warehouse I woke up in, even though the stairs were right friggin' there in front of me. But for all my lack of perception, I'm far from stupid, and I don't need a genius to point out to me that my new friend is most likely one of those rogue Tactical Dolls.
I resume my pace after that particular revelation, lightly snorting in amusement at how Sangvis' scheme to pick my brain for the sake of corporate profit went up in flames and how they were forced to resort to their contingency plan – waking their invaluable lab rat. I'm beginning to think the eggheads expected me to clean up their mess for them by killing any intruders.
I'm also beginning to think the Nova I'd found wasn't intended to be a last resort in case I tried to escape, but was put there for me to find if I did need to make an escape.
Smart idea. Would've been smarter if they left behind instructions on where to find the Nanosuit, though. Or at least given me some extra ammo and a pair of gym shorts.
Seriously, how did those dumbass scientists expect me to fight like this? I'll say it again: I'm as naked as a jaybird, and my only weapon (if I don't count my fists, which I certainly do not) is a pistol that might as well shoot foam darts for all the good it does against Ceph or body armor. I have no idea how durable these Doll androids are, and I'm in no rush to meet one and find out.
Even if the two I'd seen so far were kind of attractive, I grudgingly admit. They looked like the girls from Folsom's weird Japanese cartoons and comic books brought to life. Whoever designed their appearances must've been high as a kite in a hurricane.
Finally, I give some thought to current events; more specifically, the off-handed mention from Dr. White that a third World War had finally broken out.
Would it paint me as a pessimist if I say I'm not shocked in the slightest? Even before the whole New York fiasco, society as I knew it was on the brink of total collapse. People fought over everything, and I mean literally fucking everything – politics, religion, immigration, resource consumption, what to do with the aging baby boomer population… for fuck's sake, we even argued about whether or not there were only two genders!
And that was only in good old Uncle Sam's territory. One of the main reasons I enlisted in the Marines, besides not having a damn clue what else to do with my life, was to keep the rest of the world's problems away from my country.
I succeeded… sort of. It got a lot more complicated when the Ceph began popping their jelly heads above ground. What were we supposed to do, raid their hives and deport them back to their home planet?
As humanity soon learned, the answer to that particular question was a hard 'no'.
Oh, and I've been thrown into the future, too. Can't forget about that. Is it still 2031? If not, how many more years have passed since Sangvis Ferri's founding? Hopefully not too many…
If it's something reasonable – five years, perhaps, or maybe eight at the maximum – then it shouldn't be too difficult for me to salvage the pieces of my old life back together. Yeah, Alice will be all grown up and would definitely freak the fuck out when she learned her older brother hadn't aged a mite since his disappearance, but she'd get over it.
Assuming she's still alive, that is, my killjoy brain points out. I rub my forehead with my free hand, sighing forlornly. Man, when I get out of here, I'll have a lot of phone calls to-
Pain wracks my skull once again.
I stumble, almost collapsing but managing to brace myself against the wall at the last moment. My eyes become hazy, unfocused.
More images flood my mind. More visions. More memories that don't belong to me.
This time I'm in a small room at a facility, but this one is different. Cleaner; more active. I should know what's going on but I don't. There's a man standing in my peripherals; I can't make out any definite features other than a shaved head, because the Nanosuit's visor is focused instead on a calendar tacked to the wall.
The date on the calendar reads November 2047.
The scenery around me breaks apart, dissolving into the ether before reforming into something else. Now I'm in… a cabin, I think, or a shack. Somewhere with ramshackle walls. The calendar is still there.
An unknown force suddenly tears off the page for the month of November, then December, then January and so on. The pages are ripped away faster and faster, with greater urgency each time, and I can only stare as the years fly by along with the whirlwind of shredded paper.
I can't take this shit! Is this real? A hallucination? Why is this happening to me?! I just want it to stop already, goddammit!
And just like before, the images mercifully vanish in an instant.
I lean further into the wall, sucking in lungful after lungful of recycled air. Calm, Alcatraz. Calm. No use getting worked up over something I can't control.
What to do… I could hunt down one of the facility's former employees once I'm outside, strongarm them into finding a fix for whatever is wrong with my head. There's little doubt in my mind at this point that they're hallucinations; especially that last part with the calendar, because there was no goddamn way that was a memory, either mine or Prophet's.
Someone is going to fucking pay for screwing with my head like this.
There's urgency in my step now; a frantically growing desire to find any type of evidence to inform me I'm on the right track on finding a way out of this hellhole. Although I'd taken my time to explore before, with the threat of Sangvis Dolls looming overhead, along with the possibility of another mental break at any moment, I can't afford to be thorough anymore.
All my sources gave me enough information to piece together a rough idea of what's happening here, and I find myself wanting nothing to do with it. I'd be damned before I let those lifelike sex bots lock me away again.
As I swiftly work my way down another sprawling maze of hallways, ignoring the doors placed periodically on either side, a part of me chides myself on the thought I could be missing something valuable by not checking them. The smarter side of me argues that would be wasting precious time, and how I hadn't found anything noteworthy besides the dead Doll and some long-gone egghead's research computer.
My stomach rumbles, reminding me of yet another problem. Hopefully I'll stumble across a cafeteria sometime soon. Or maybe a vending machine; I'm not picky about snacks, and I know a few tricks on how to get goodies from them without paying. Most of them involve brute force.
I still don't have the vaguest idea of where I'm actually going. Left, right, left. Left again because fuck it, why not. Another right, halfway down the corridor. Dammit, there's a song stuck in my head now and I can't get rid of it.
Maybe I grew ignorant. Maybe I subconsciously thought, in a fleeting moment of idiotic complacency, that I'm no longer at risk of danger since I'd gone this long without encountering any. Or maybe it's something as simple and mundane as me spacing out for a few seconds. Could've been all three.
Like I said, I'm not always good at picking up on obvious signals. If I were, then I probably would've heard the march of footsteps approaching my direction as I round the next corner.
I come to a dead stop.
The little girl leading a platoon-sized squad does the same.
Her entourage, all of them identical to the dead Ripper from the lab and armed with futuristic-looking submachine guns, follow suit.
The pale girl cranes her neck upward to stare at me with bright yellow eyes, her mouth hanging open in shock. She's a tiny thing, dressed in a revealing one-piece black leotard, with strange black disks situated against her mechanical forelegs. Her long white hair is done up in twin ponytails similar to Sith Bitch's, though without the curls.
…Are those grenade launchers attached to her hips?!
Neither of us move for several moments. The girl's face is turning a shade of red that would put the juiciest tomatoes to absolute shame. It's somewhere in this timeframe that it dawns on me just what sort of position I'm in, and what any potential witnesses might misinterpret it as.
I am an adult male in my birthday suit, looming over a paralyzed girl who can't be any older than her early teens.
This is even more awkward than when I realized how big the Nanosuit made my ass look.
Feeling heat creeping up my own cheeks, I do the first thing that comes to mind: throw my hands up in a placating gesture and try my hardest to diffuse this pint-sized cherry bomb before it goes off in my face.
"Um, hi? I mean, hello there?" Fuck my lack of social skills. "Nice to meet you! You can call me Alcatraz. Or Alky, if that makes you more comfortable. It's what my old unit used to call me. Look, I'm sure you're probably a little freaked out right now, but I swear this isn't what it looks like-!"
The girl abruptly cuts me off with an ear-shattering scream. Her face going nuclear, she moves her arms to her weapons and I do NOT wait around to see what happens next.
I hear it, though. I'm already booking it back down the hallway when my eardrums are rattled by a chorus of explosions going off on the space I'd occupied a couple of seconds ago.
The cacophony of metallic footfalls shortly after tells me that she and her gang are giving chase.
"GET BACK HERE!" the girl shrieks, apparently enraged by my cowardly- erm, tactical retreat.
Like hell I'm going back there! She has dual automatic grenade launchers and a whole platoon of killer robots backing her up; all I've got is a dinky pistol and a weird physiology!
And that weird physiology is the only thing working in my favor right now. I run faster than I'd ever thought myself capable of, darting through corridor after corridor with an almost unnatural grace and precision, doing everything I can to throw off my pursuers. While the white-haired Sangvis Doll – because what the hell else can she be? – is armed to the teeth, it doesn't seem like she's built for intense exercise, and I'm betting that her slight frame and heavy weaponry will slow her down enough to eventually lose track of me.
My bet soon starts to pay off, I learn when I look back a few times to observe their progress. I can take sharp corners with ease, but the Sangvis girl has to slow down before each turn lest her momentum propel her further down the wrong hallway or into a wall. Furthermore, the sex squad behind her never once try to overtake her lead, despite all of them being in better physical shape than their leader.
Ducklings, after all, are never known to stray far from their mother.
The footsteps trailing me begin to grow more distant; they're relentless in their chase, but I hold the advantage in terms of raw speed. The soles of my bare feet smack loudly against the solid floor. My breathing is kept focused and controlled.
I swallow the lump in my throat and try not to panic at the thought of what those androids will do to me if they catch up. I'm already losing them anyway, so as long as nothing suddenly goes awry, then I'll be fine, right?
"Dammit, he's getting away!" I hear Jailbait Bitch exclaim with a growl. "We have no choice. Open fire!"
I hate my life. Prophet, if you're still in there somewhere, you can have my body back.
No that was only a joke please don't actually–
A startled yelp escapes my throat when purple laser beams – yes, fucking laser beams fly past me and impact against the wall ahead, leaving nasty scorch marks behind. Acting on pure instinct, I thrust the Nova behind me and retaliate with gunfire of my own, letting six blind shots loose at my attackers. I think I hit one of them, because I hear a weird fizzing noise followed by the sound of something heavy hitting the ground. I don't dare turn back to check.
I'm in the middle of banking around another corner when it finally happens: I take a hit.
"Aaargh!" I clench my teeth to refrain from shouting as a stray energy bolt grazes my left hand. My momentum is quickly restored, however, thanks to a potent combination of adrenaline and a desperate want to survive.
I briefly check my hand to inspect the damage, expecting to see charred flesh mixed with cauterized blood. What I see instead makes my mind go blank.
Black synthetic muscle tissue; the same type used in the Nanosuit. The back of my hand where the blast struck is covered in the familiar hexagonal pattern composed of CryFibril nano-weave.
I continue to watch, astonished, as the damaged skin suddenly begins to mend itself before my eyes, soon knitting over and concealing the artificial muscle from view.
What… the fuck.
No words can accurately express how I feel just then. Shock, confusion, terror, and elation war for dominance within me, with none of them coming out on top. I… I didn't believe Sangvis Ferri's experiments could do something like that…
…What the hell have I become?
"Would you hold still, you naked freak?!" The shrill voice of my new acquaintance brings me back to the present. She's still chasing after me with dogged persistence, though I'm continually losing her bit by bit. "I don't know why, but Scarecrow said to capture you alive, and she'll be really angry at me if you keep resisting and get yourself killed!"
Naturally, I raise the one-fingered salute with my patched-up hand and keep running like the wind.
(Fifteen Minutes Later)
Curled up in a ball, huddling deeper into the shadows of my protective hiding spot, I gasp in several breaths of sanitized laboratory air.
I've finally lost them. It took a mad goose chase around the sprawling labyrinth of hallways, as well as the use of some creative mind games involving hiding in random rooms, but the pursuit is over. The last five minutes were spent squirreled away in another lab, awaiting the sound of their metal footsteps to come in and investigate that fortunately never came.
Being chased by crazy women is fucking scary.
My breathing eventually evens out to normal. Emerging from my hiding spot under a modestly sized oak desk, I carefully approach the doorway and make absolutely sure my fangirls are out of earshot before leaving.
"So those are Tactical Dolls, huh?" I quietly mutter to myself as I break into a brisk walk. The lifelike automatons manufactured for combat that ended up turning against their human creators? Evidently no one at Sangvis Ferri ever heard of the Terminator franchise, otherwise they would've seen this exact scenario coming and built a fucking off switch.
My one saving grace is that they don't seem nearly as durable as the fictional robots. Still far stronger than the average human, probably, though I'll wager in full confidence it won't take something as extreme as throwing one into a volcano to dispose of it.
They can be outsmarted, too, judging by my successful escape from the angry midget. I nod slowly, thoughtfully, gradually allowing my tense muscles to relax a little. I can do this. One way or another, I'm going to get the hell out and away from this accursed facility. After that… well, it all depends on how far-
There it is, situated at the end of the hallway like the golden light at the end of a dark tunnel. The doors are slightly ajar, and the dim interior light is flickering like it's having a damn seizure, but it's there, and it's real, and it's the most welcoming sight I've ever seen.
My legs move forward on their own. I want to cry tears of joy. I want to sing praises to the angels. Most of all, I want to get the fuck out of here, and I demonstrate that by prying the doors open with only a small fraction of my strength.
The buttons on the pad are labeled "1" from the top, down to "B5" at the bottom which is indicated as my current location. So… I'm underground? Huh, okay then. It doesn't make a huge difference.
"So long, Sangvis bitches!" I snicker, grinning ear-to-ear as I press the button to take me to the surface.
I frown, pressing it again. Then again. Then a fourth time. I break into a cold sweat, my button mashing getting more and more frantic with each failed input.
No… NO! The elevator can't be broken; not now! I'm so close to escaping!
My heart drops to my ankles. My body mirrors the motion as I slump against the wall, then slide to the ground, turning my eyes up but not really looking at anything, wondering what the hell I'm going to do now. The Dolls will pick up my trail sooner or later, and when that happens… well…
I raise the Nova in front of my face to inspect it again. There are fourteen shots left in the mag, though I'll only need one if they surround me and drive me into a corner. Their master will have a much harder time studying my brain if it's splattered all over the floor.
As long as I get the last laugh...
Something in the background attracts my attention. I lower my gun, and all of my morbid thoughts are immediately forgotten.
There's an emergency hatch on the roof of the elevator.
My grin returns in full force.
"James Rodriguez, the Lord might still be smiling down on you today."
Compared to all the horseshit I've put up with since my release from stasis, climbing the cable inside a darkened elevator shaft is the least interesting thing to happen to me today.
It's not relaxing by any means, however. I have to adjust my body before each tug to ensure the wiring doesn't rub my manhood the wrong way or anything. Additionally, since this task requires both hands, I'm forced to hold the barrel of my handgun between my teeth for the whole ascent. It tastes like polymer and bad life choices.
In retrospect, shutting the hatch behind me in case the Dolls discovered the elevator and found out what I was up to wasn't the most intelligent idea. An open hatch would've provided illumination, however limited. As it is, I can barely see a foot in front of me, and I almost lose my grip a few times when I reach for what I think is the cable, only to grasp empty air.
Also in hindsight, I hadn't planned on how to get the top floor doors open once I got that far. I'll jump that hurdle when I reach it – there are still three floors to go.
It's an agonizingly slow climb, even with my mysteriously enhanced stamina.
I find myself replaying the song in my head from earlier. Whatever helps pass the time.
Two floors left to go… a floor and a half… almost there…
Every muscle in my body goes rigid when the doors to the top floor unexpectedly part. A feminine silhouette is barely visible above me, and when another young woman approaches the open ledge, I swear my heart stops beating altogether.
"Well, well…" She croons at me with a bemused smile, her voice echoing down the shaft. "I see you found a loophole with the elevator we disabled. You even managed to avoid Destroyer and her team… You're a resourceful one, aren't you?"
Unlike the Dolls I'd encountered before, there is no mistaking this chick for a human. Her flowing mane of jet-black hair stands in stark contrast to her malicious red eyes. All her limbs are reinforced with black metal; her right arm in particular is constructed as a massive mechanical slab, ending with long, clawed fingers holding a fucking sword of all things.
"Unfortunately for you, human, I'm afraid your efforts weren't enough." She unholsters an energy pistol with her free hand, pointing it at me.
I just sit there like a doe in fucking headlights, clutching the cable like a lifeline, eyes wide and with my own pistol still in my mouth. God isn't smiling on me any longer.
Then the girl chuckles, placing her pistol back in its holster.
Before I can sigh in sweet relief through my nose, she rears her sword back and severs the cable with one swift cut.
I tumble down. Down into the darkness of the shaft, my doom mere seconds away. My limbs are flailing in all directions, the Nova flying out of my mouth. I keep my eyes glued on the demented Doll as she mockingly waves at me, then turns and disappears from sight, leaving me to my inevitable fate.
I try to scream but no sound comes out. Gravity tugs me further down, the air whipping against my naked, vulnerable body.
This is it. I'm going to fucking die here. I'm going to die alone and forgotten; the only ones to remember my brief revival would be a group of evil machines whose goals for me I'd never know.
My final thoughts are of my family, and my squad.
Prophet's parting message suddenly rings in my head:
"Welcome to the future, son. Welcome to the war."
A second, more emotionless voice follows next, clear as day in my ears. It sounds kinda like Prophet but it's heavily distorted, deeper. More machine than man. It only speaks two words, and they're words I never thought I'd be hearing again. Words I shouldn't be hearing again:
I black out a second later.
I'm no Peter Watts, but hopefully this is good enough to get some people interested.
Let me clarify a few things: On the subject of Alcatraz (and Prophet by extension), I'm assuming his "human" form mimics a normal person as closely as possible, down to having functioning internal organs. Crysis canon is kinda sketchy on that. The novels state that the Nanosuit slowly consumes the wearer's organic body for fuel, even though in Crysis 3 a scan of Prophet clearly shows Alcatraz's human remains are still in there. Of course, this takes place after the trilogy when the suit can shapeshift into anything, so I think I can afford to make some stuff up.
Speaking of making stuff up… Alcatraz canonically died before the Nanosuit could fully copy his personality (or the data got corrupted, which is what I'm going with), hence why Prophet is the dominant host. Let's assume that Sangvis Ferri found a way to bring Alcatraz's mind back by fixing the damage and allowing the upload to finish. This ended up causing a "split" since there are now two personalities inhabiting one body. This will be covered more in a later chapter.
On a different note, I was serious when I said these two games were meant for each other. Just replace the Precursors with the Ceph and boom, you've got the potential for an amazing crossover!
Also, don't expect future chapters to be this long. They'll be done when I decide they're done. In the meantime, any feedback is greatly appreciated!
And finally, the pairing. I've narrowed it down to two choices… What do you guys think? Is Springfield the best raifu? Or is Soppo on toppo?
(I'm drunk again, sorry.)