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The New World [m]

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Offline yautjan

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The old watch ticked away, its battery having long since outlasted its original owner. Although the watch hung upside down from the chair it was leaning on, it read its date and time clearly in faint blue characters: 17:32, 12/30/2341.

A woman’s hand snatched the watch up, examining it behind her blank mask. There were no eye or mouth holes to be seen, just a smooth slate of black hiding her face. Much of her hooded jumpsuit was the same, black and without detail, hugging her frame and cinched at the waist with her wide belt. A tablet hung at her left hip, and a gun at her right.

She tucked the watch into the pouch on her back, secured tightly to the belt, and kept going. This building wasn’t safe in its dilapidated state and she didn’t intend to be here any longer than she had to be. Its only boon was it was safe from the harsh winter outside.

Snow piled on the building’s worn roof a meter deep and the wind howled with everlasting blizzard, the only respite in the summer when the snows receded and the sun shone again, briefly, through the nuclear winter smog. Through the windows the woman could make out her target--an unassuming but secure building clearly occupied by people, four blocks to the north, and nearly impossible to breach.

She was no ordinary person, though, and she descended the stairs into the dark of early night with all intentions and sights set on that building.

That was where the doctors lived.

In the old days, before the fallout, she’d heard that doctors were trusted members of society, respected and regaled. She felt no such thing for them now, walking the broken sidewalks beneath foot upon foot of poisonous snow towards the building her target resided in.

Fifty years now, the world’s decline had begun anew. Ever since they had emerged from their bunkers and repopulated their frozen earth, carving civilization out again like the ancients of old, humans had suffered chronic infertility. At first the issue was looked upon sympathetically, with genuine concern, and those in power tried to fix the problem.

Then the kidnappings began, and everything went to hell.

The woman had known no other world than one of fear, as a young woman in a world of old men, where you were either infertile or at risk of never being seen again. Too many had lost their children to the dark hands of the Council, conveniently stuck in cycle of re elections by older people who were too jaded to change their minds. Too many young women who had become pregnant in a near miracle event were never seen again after one slip up, one word whispered to the wrong ear.

These doctors had kidnapped the people of the new world, and deserved no more sympathy than a serial killer.

The guards never saw her coming, for she took to the building next door and threw herself across, catching her fingers on an open bathroom window that had conveniently been left just for her. Internally, she thanked their inside man, an unassuming one-armed elder named Joe, and left him his pay in the tank of the toilet before she took to the hallways.

Inside she found a locker to stand in, squishing her muscular frame in, and closed the door. While it would be uncomfortable, her windows of opportunity were scarce, and she would have to wait long into the night before she could make her move. It was fine, ultimately, because her target would be sound asleep by then, and would never know the grim reaper was at their doorstep.

And so she waited, with baited breath, for her chance to kill another of the treacherous doctors of the new world.
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Offline heartstringss

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It was an unbearably long shift at work today. And while long shifts weren’t necessarily a first, it was made even longer by the fact it started so early in the morning and went so late into the night. Normally, Lyra’s work had her at the research center just before 7 am and arriving back home around 7 pm. As if the prospect of daily 12 hour shifts wasn’t grueling enough, today she had been called in even earlier - arrive just before dawn, no later than 4 am. That’s an order, Hyles.

It was never difficult to figure out why the extra hours were being added on, as after years of working for the same man the two had come to know each other more intimately than she would have liked. They knew all each other’s secrets, all their tells and different behaviors that spoke of certain hidden feelings. Or maybe it was more accurate to say that General Hadley knew all of her tells, and she, herself, was just a damn good guesser. It was a far-from-cordial type of feeling, more like familiarizing yourself with the enemy. Then again, the two weren’t necessarily enemies either. Not by Hadley’s standards, that is.

Normally, whenever Hadley required her at the office earlier than usual, it meant there was a new “shipment” that needed to be sorted through. A shipment, in this case, meant a new supply of test subjects. Freshly picked off the streets or out of the hospitals, whichever had more to offer. Gone, now, were the days when the hospitals had flourished… Not that there was any less sick and needy in the world now, but rather, there were less people who felt they could turn to others even in their greatest time of need. They’d rather suffer than take the risk, and could one even blame them?

It was the same types of hospitals that Lyra had worked at before being re-assigned to research; the same hospitals that were becoming less and less frequently used these days, because more and more people nowadays were coming to no longer trust the doctors who worked there. Ever since the kidnappings had begun and it had first come out that it was fertile, young pregnant women being snatched off the streets, a lot of women had turned to back-alley abortions, afraid for what might become of their babies or themselves if they let their secret be discovered. Even more women, unwilling to sacrifice, took on the risk of delivering at home instead: in unsterilized environments, with little or hardly any help — often forgetting the issue of what might become of those children after they were finally out of the womb and into the world. Assuming either one survived childbirth in the first place, that is.

No one felt they could trust the doctors anymore, because rumor had it that that was where the leak was — and yet, little was it known that the doctors weren’t the ones who had betrayed everyone in the first place. The doctors, they were just doing their jobs, delivering babies and taking care of mothers, trying to help the sick and needy. This is what they had been trained for all their lives, why their ancestors had been rescued and kept in special bunkers throughout the war, and why even centuries later families that had been doctors in the past were still doctors now. Betrayal, abuse of power, anti-humanitarianism — well, that just wasn’t in the job description.

When the government had first come knocking at the hospital doors demanding names and addresses of the fertile, it wasn’t the doctors who had turned those records over. It was the administrative staff, those whose jobs it was to input the records in the first place. It was the patients primarily, but also the doctors, who paid the price in the end. Some paid with their lives… and some paid with their freedom. Unfortunately, even more paid with the lives of their own children.

Lyra was lucky to have been motherless, fatherless and childless at a time like that - something she never would have thought she’d say before - but though it was with good fortune that she’d had less to lose than the average person working as a doctor in that time, it didn’t make her any less vulnerable. See, the thing is… it was true, she might have been an orphan, might not have been capable of caring a child to term herself, but there was one little catch: she did have a brother. A brother who had disappeared just 2 years prior at this time, who still remained unaccounted for. That was their threat, what they had used to get at her: Come with us, or we will kill your brother. We know where he is, we can get to him at any time. Is that a risk you want to take?

And so here she was, years later, still working research for the government. Not that she had any choice in the matter. Even if they might have been lying about knowing where Alan was, she couldn’t take that risk. He could have been dead already for all she knew, but also he could have still been alive, and the last thing she wanted was to lose another family member - let alone Alan, a second time - after having already lost her humanity, and everybody else that had mattered to her at that time.

Lyra was sore, weak, and tired when she returned from work later that night. The transport vehicle that took her between the ugly prison-like structure she called home and the equally ugly prison-like structure she worked out of was just as heavily guarded as everything else in her life. It was far from a picture-perfect image of “home.” But then, what else could be expected of communal living? Honestly, could you even call it “living” when in fact all you were doing was just scraping through day-by-day, trying to make ends meet and keep from falling apart? No, not by Lyra’s standards… This wasn’t living. This was survival.

The only reason Lyra had a room all to herself was because of the fits she so often threw in the middle of the night. It was an issue that had plagued her since children, but one which had become even more troublesome over the course of the last 8 years since she had been forced into research. See, on the surface calling her work simply “research” could confuse things to seem innocent enough, but in reality, that was all a ruse. If one peeled back the layers, they would find that her work was actually more akin to human experimentation, like the kind that certain sects of the military had performed in the olden days.

Her subjects were not just dead, but also sometimes alive… Not always adults, but also occasionally children… And hardly, hardly ever willing.

And that’s why, with little else explanation being needed for the cause of increase in recent years, she sometimes had night terrors. Terrible fits of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep. It was no wonder she’d been relocated to a separate part of the building to sleep in a room all of her own, away from everybody else. No one wanted to listen to her screaming bloody murder every single night. No one, not even the guards.

Most of the staff on site slept in one large room, with cots all spread out on the floor and a single attached bathroom area to be used by all. Lyra wasn’t the only one who had a room to herself, but she was one of the few.

She’d turned in early after arriving back from work, escorted by a two-man guard team from the transport vehicle to the front doors of the building, a key-card swipe and keypad lock the only method of entry into the building. Once she was inside, the doors were locked shut behind her, and there was no other way in or out unless you had prior authorization or a key for all the different locks throughout. The building was so heavily guarded on the outside, there was hardly any need to staff it on the inside. Of course, there was still the occasional patrolman, but mostly it was just custodial - aside from the inhabitants, of course.

She’d skipped dinner, heading instead for the showers, a piping hot soak under the nozzle-head sprayer one of the few remaining comforts she had left in this world. Her work clothes, blood-stained and ragged as they always were upon returning from a shipment day, discarded into a bin off to the side of the locker room for thorough cleaning. She was never alone in the showers being that she lived in such a large communal housing type, but even so she couldn’t help letting loose beneath the hot water. Her skin was always raw-red and sensitive from over-scrubbing after days like these, dark circles under her eyes, lids rimmed red like she’d been crying for hours. It left her even more exhausted than she had been beforehand.

If she hadn’t been so exhausted, she might have been more likely to fight sleep. Even so, regardless of the impending night terrors that so frequently plagued her, she couldn’t help dozing off. It was something she had come to live with these days, like a cross she had to bear. For a long time she had suffered from insomnia too, but after years and years of things never getting better, what was the point of fighting it anymore?

Tonight’s double-feature stretched on for what felt like hours. Her skin was soaked to the bone with sweat, through her clothing and the sheets of her small makeshift bed. Really it was just an old mattress topper with a few blankets thrown atop for cushioning, a single pillow the only thing that kept her from banging her head against concrete every single night. It wasn’t just a regular sweat though, it was a cold sweat - one which left her shaking, full-body tremors racking through her body despite the thick blanket atop her narrow frame. Dark eyes flitted back and forth between thin eyelids closed against the stream of moonlight drifting in through a nearby window.

Inside her subconscious, there was blood coursing down the walls like a river, filling the entire space of the small room she occupied. She was belly-deep in the thick ooze when she felt a brush against her ankle and something wrapped tight around her leg, tugging and pulling her underneath. She struggled for a few minutes, nearly drowning, when at last the grip released and she could swim freely once more. Bubbles in the red liquid drifted up from just beside her, and a few seconds later a shape emerged. A mottled corpse, small like a baby’s, then another. Hundreds more drifted up ’til at last the whole room seemed to be filled; not just with blood but with the corpses as well, corpses that were achingly familiar: chests cut open, then sewn back together by a needle and thread of her own hand.

Her lips peeled back and let loose a terrible, agonizing scream that permeated her dream straight through to reality. She felt something brush against her arm again, something separate from the corpses floating about, and then she went under. She screamed again, longer, louder, it was choking her, she couldn’t breathe —

And then her eyes burst open. She was in her bedroom, covered in sweat, still shaking, and she wasn’t alone. There was a figure nearby, just inches from the edge of her makeshift bed. It was dark, but she could just barely make out the shape of another human body through the shadows bouncing off the walls from the moonlight streaking in through the window. Vibrant green eyes were wild, cutting this way and that like she couldn’t focus no matter how hard she tried. It was all she could do to wrap her fists tight in the fabric of her sheets and attempt to steer her mind back to reality. Was she still dreaming?

“H-hello?” Her voice was weak, shaky, the tired expression on her face fraught with raw emotion - mostly fear. The person was dressed in all black up to their face, she could tell that much, and that was unbecoming of a guard. The only explanation was that it wasn’t a guard come to check on her. But then what —

Then it clicked.

She’d heard about the killings, the revolution movement, the breaking-ins that had been going on lately in nearby and neighboring villages, political figureheads and doctors alike being slaughtered, their bodies left as a message to others: you're next.

Lyra ducked her head, knees drawing up against her chest, a few strands of damp, dark hair falling across her forehead as she knocked her head against her knees and drew her arms around her legs. Her voice was small, vulnerable, full of guilt and remorse alike.

“If you’re here to kill me… just get it over with already.”
« Last Edit: July 07, 2019, 05:21:56 AM by heartstringss »


Offline yautjan

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The hours ticked by. She busied herself on her tablet, checking messages and documents she’d been putting off, and playing an old game she’d found in the tablet’s memory when it had been given to her. There was so much unfinished work to be done, too much to do for too few people, especially among her ranks. There were only eight of her kind, talented and fearsome enough to perform these dirty tasks and bloody their hands. While most people focused on the kidnapped and the test subjects, they took care of the problem at its source--the snake would live forever until the head was burnt off, but it’d be slowed down if its scales were removed one by one, however many it took.

Two AM finally rolled around, and she slipped out of her locker, taking a moment in the barren room to stretch and crack her back. Her legs were sore from standing for so long, but she’d power through the pain tonight. Aching was a problem for tomorrow her.

She stepped into the hall, dimly lit with the late hour, and followed the map she had been given by her scouts to follow. This doctor in particular was an issue due to their years-long history in the torturing and gross violation of basic human rights. They had a lot to answer for, and she would see tonight that they answered for it.

A scream rang through the corridor, and she leapt into a room at her left, pressing up against the wall. Was someone being attacked? A night terror? Whatever it was, it made her heart race and her throat clench, swallowing painfully before reminding herself she was the most dangerous person in the building. Plus, the tablet said she was close--so close. She couldn’t cower now because of someone’s nightmares.

So back down the hall she went, and at last the door to her target’s room was in sight. She grabbed the doorknob and pushed in, closing it quickly behind her. Moonlight streaked through the window, illuminating a lightly furnished room with a bed at the furthest wall, and the doctor tossing and turning within the blankets until she was so tangled up it was nearly comical. No sooner had the door shut than did she scream again, louder and longer.

The uninvited guest did not flinch, but her heart nearly stopped, and she listened hard for the sound of guards running. Her intel wasn’t quite as thorough with the security details, but she understood it to be light inside the building, a suspicion she could confirm by the lack of approaching footsteps. Perhaps this wasn’t the first time this girl had had terrors. Why a doctor would have terrors was ridiculous, but she wasn’t here to question it.

And then the doctor woke up.

Her gun was in her hand immediately, not yet pointed at its target but she was a heartbeat from pulling the trigger, finger clenched over the small, fatal piece of metal. Her target was looking wildly, clearly awoken from a nightmare, and in the moonlight it became clearer that the doctor was distressed.

“Hello?” the doctor asked, shaking, and she took a step forward, the moonlight absorbed by her matte clothes and mask, hiding everything from the world and leaving only a demon of death in its wake.

She knew when the doctor had noticed her. She raised her gun at last, finger a hairsbreadth from pulling the trigger, but rather than panic and call for help, the doctor simply cowered and curled up, like a child who had been caught in a terrible lie.

If I’m here to kill you, she thought.

“Doctor Hyles,” she said, her voice distorted by the mask’s filter. “You’re as smart as they say you are.”

She approached fast, her foot flashing out and kicking the doctor onto her back. She pressed her boot down into the doctor’s throat, and held the gun to her head. “You know why I’ve come. You know what's next. Go on, then. Beg. Just like the rest of them do. Tell me you're innocent.”
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Offline heartstringss

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*trigger warning*

There were still visions of her nightmare flitting through Lyra’s mind, mixing and blending with reality — the nightmare of before and the nightmare of now. She could almost see blood coursing down the moonlit walls on the other side of the room from around the shape of the new figure, then she blinked and it was gone. She told herself it wasn’t real, but a shadow of doubt remained.

She couldn’t bare to beg for her life. It wasn’t something she would have done even if she’d had the heart to try, never would she have even dreamt of it. If she died, maybe Alan could be spared. Less people might have to suffer, because there would be one less doctor in the world. Maybe then she could atone for her sins, or at least be free of the guilt.

It hadn’t taken long for her to notice the presence of an unfamiliar person in the room, though for a brief second her panic had whispered it might be another trick of the mind, she knew that wasn’t true. She’d curled into an almost-fetal position right away, guarding against the sudden vulnerability. Vague tremors were still wracking through her body, a thin layer of sweat still coated along her skin, but she wasn’t exactly afraid. All she felt was shame. Like a raw, exposed nerve, it bled out of her body and into the air, permeating like a thick fog.

Over her bare kneecaps, her eyes flickered between the figure’s black-covered face to the hunk of metal they were holding in their hand, noting the gloved finger hovering over the trigger, all but a second away from ending things right then and there. She’d said her bit and now it was time to see what came next. Was this it — would this be her last breath? The last thing she would see before she died: the barrel of a gun and the vague, shimmering brief hallucination of blood running down the walls.

She barely had a moment to register the blacked-out figure’s words before they were approaching fast, a heavy boot slamming into her front and swiftly knocking her back against the mattress. The same boot moved to her throat and pressed down, nearly crushing her windpipe in the process. She hacked uncomfortably, straining briefly against the pressure, and then stopped. When at last she blinked her eyes open, she wasn’t surprised to find the same gun that had been pointing at her from across the room just moments before was now pressed to her head.

Her chest was heaving like she’d just run a marathon. The shock and intensity of the whole situation had her heart hammering behind her ribcage, damn near about ready to burst out of her chest, but she hardly put up a fight. Each time her captor spoke, their words came out distorted from some feature of the mask they wore over their face, making it was impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman from their voice alone. The form-fitting jumpsuit and vague shape of their body, however, implied woman.

“I won’t beg you,” she spoke quietly, the words coming out hoarse from the pressure of the boot pressing into her throat. She could still feel herself shaking, but whether it was as a result of the night terror or the waking one, she wasn’t entirely sure.

“I won’t tell you that I’m innocent because I’m not. There is so much blood on my hands, but it won’t come off no matter how hard I scrub.” She felt herself moving before she was even too sure what she about to do next, thin hands reaching for the sleeves of her thermal, drawing the fabric up to reveal a row of deep, precise marks carved into the skin of both her wrists, outlined by a pale dotted line reminiscent of stitches. Her eyes moved from the fixed point on the ceiling that she had been staring at just beforehand to the figure’s gun, then up to what little she could see of their face.

“If you want me to beg for my life, I can tell you right now that I’m not going to do that," She let her arms drop back to the mattress and looked away. She didn't dare cry, but even still she could feel the hiccup in her chest, the fear in the back of her mind clawing at the insides of her skull. It was a natural response, one she could fight and lose every time: Flight or fight, preservation of self. Well, right now she was doing either of those things.

All she could think was that maybe the reason she hadn't been able to succeed every time before was right here in front of her: because her death and the moment leading up to whenever she would finally answer for her sins was not hers to choose in the first place.

Her tone was angry, almost impatient when she continued on a second later, her head just barely, almost imperceptibly, shifting upwards to press a little tighter against the barrel of the gun. "I know that I deserve to die, I've tried and failed time and time again. So if that’s what you’re here for, then like I said before — please, just get it over with already.”
« Last Edit: July 07, 2019, 05:22:10 AM by heartstringss »


Offline yautjan

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Thirteen years she had done this. Thirteen long, hard years of training and killing, and never once had a doctor so readily accepted her fate. They cried, they begged, sometimes they screamed, but she was efficient and ruthless. It was how she needed to be to do her job correctly. If she actually listened to them plea, she might waver. And wavering was how people like her were killed, often slowly and painfully if it could be afforded.

Yet this doctor was just… accepting it. Perhaps it was the shock, the night terrors, but the scars on her wrist spoke a different story, a long and pained one. So many doctors had done this willingly, so many had begged for their lives by claiming they hadn’t. Why would one more be so troubling to her? Yet, it was, seeing those scars and hearing her words. Doctor Hyles had countless peoples’ blood on her hands. She was a target for a reason. Their group had done their due diligence, and it would be catastrophic to hesitate any more than she already was, even if her troubles took up the span of a mere second.

She did not lift her finger off the trigger, did not move a muscle, but her mind whirled with thoughts and considerations and confusion. She had never failed an assassination before, yet this assassin was debating whether or not death was the right punishment for someone so broken by their actions under the oppressive regime of the Council. How many other doctors had been sincere in their pleas? Why was this doctor getting under her skin with so few words?

Perhaps it was the pained, dead look in her eyes. One that she was so familiar with from her own mirror. Whispers of the past breathed into her ear, and she shook it off violently, jerking back and releasing the doctor from her boot’s grip.

“Get up,” she ordered, keeping the gun leveled at the doctor. She took one step back, giving the doctor some room, but her threat was still obvious if the woman tried anything rash or stupid. “Death is not sufficient punishment anymore for your crimes against the people.”

She jerked her head to the window. “Instead, you’re coming with me."
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Lyra wasn't sure what to expect, as she had never experienced something quite like this before, but her assassin's hesitation deviated far from how she thought this next moment would go. She'd been staring hard at the far wall up until then, the cold metal of the gun biting into her forehead already leaving a vague impression against her skin, a shadow of a threat. A beat passed in silence, neither person moving an inch, then after what felt like an uncomfortably long, tense moment had passed for what should have been a split-second decision, she finally looked back to her captor. Why were they hesitating? If they were here to make her answer for her sins, shouldn't they have naturally already pulled the trigger? Or were they wanting to make her suffer, draw it out and make it as painful as possible?

It was a brief moment, but it still mattered.  Intense green eyes trailed up the cloaked arm holding the gun to her head to the masked face beneath the person's hood. She was almost grateful that she couldn't see her assailant's face, though curiosity remained. Her eyes narrowed at the violent tremor that racked the other's body, and then something she never would have expected happened. The black figure's boot lifted off her throat and the person before her, despite still holding a gun pointed right at her, stepped back.

A small shiver coursed through Lyra's narrow frame, the small hairs on the back of her neck shootimg up at the abrupt, harsh order to stand. She was wholly confused, but now a new terror wracked her brain: no immediate punishment was being issued, possibly something even more sinister to follow. She could sense that the threat still remained through the curtness of the other's words and the gun that remained pointed at her head, and that more than anything else had her following the assassin's order with little or no complaint. Whatever the other had decided to do with her now, it was far out of her own hands.

Lyra lifted abruptly to her feet, the rush at busy-making a clear attempt to hide the flicker of raw fear mapped over her face. Pale hands reached for a pair of thick thermal leggings discarded off to the side of the makeshift bed and pulled them on, then her boots just against the wall. She wasn't sure how much time the other was going to allow her for dressing in preparation of the harsh nuclear winter roaring just outside, or if they even cared one way or another. The last thing she latched onto was her coat, which she promptly tugged over her frame and then paused, unsure what to do with herself next. Her eyes were unsteady, hands clenched tightly at her sides.

"Where are you taking me?"


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The assassin stepped back again, giving the doctor room when she stood and began to dress. There was a thousand thoughts in her head at that moment, jumbled and confusing. She wanted to kill the doctor, as was her orders. Her own orders. Yet…

She kept the gun pointed, but at last released the trigger, showing some discipline for her prisoner’s sake. Her arm remained steady and her expressionless mask faced Doctor Hyles with the same blank intensity it had before. Whatever she decided to do, she was going to show more humanity than the doctors of this new, god-forsaken world had showed for decades.

“You are coming with me,” she repeated in her distorted voice. “If you have anything you value, take it now, because I am not coming back here for it.”

She moved to the window, keeping her aim locked on Hyles’s head, and rapped on the thick glass with her knuckles. It rattled gently, and she opened it without looking, determining it was unlocked. She fished a grappling hook out of her back pouch, hooking the claw on the sill and holding the rope in her hand until the time was right.

“We have about 90 seconds to get down and out of sight,” she told her. “If you’d rather not take the risk, then please let me know so I may kill you as I had originally intended.”
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Lyra was so confused, she hardly knew what to do with herself. Her brow curved into a startled arc, head tilting in pause at the distorted voice of the masked figure  telling her that if there was anything she valued enough to want to take it with her, she needed to grab it now because they weren't going to be coming back. The show of patience and release of the trigger offered a brief glimpse of humanity behind the mask, something she never would have expected from someone who had just shoved her down and put a gun to her head. She wasn't sure what she was feeling, but it wasn't quite gratitude. How could she, without knowing what was coming next? The not knowing seemed so, so much worse.

While the other being moved to the window and worked at opening it up, Lyra made a short trip around her sad excuse for a bedroom. There was a small wardrobe off to the far wall, mostly bare except for a selection of dark long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and a thin envelope taped to the underside of the bottom-most drawer. She tugged the drawer out in one swift, fluid motion and flipped it upside down, a collection of underwear and socks spilling out onto the floor, the last of her worries right now. She ripped the envelope off the thin cardboard of the drawers' underside and tucked it into an inside pocket of her coat. Lastly, she grabbed a pair of thicker pants and tugged them up over her hips.

A long, hard look thrown in the other's direction displayed little more than discontent. She didn't know what to feel anymore, panic or remorse, self-hatred or fear... if only she knew what the other was planning on doing with her, maybe then she could have prepared herself a little better. As it was, she could feel herself just getting irritated now. In the span of no more than 5 or 10 minutes, she'd gone from being a prisoner of the government to a prisoner of the revolution. She was losing more and more control over her own life with each second passed. Then again, maybe this was a blessing in disguise. At least she'd finally be free of Hadley and his various cruel experiments. But then, what about her brother? Did Hadley really know where he was, and could kill him at any moment? Did anyone...?

The irritation and vague hint of panic broke through loud and clear in the tone of her voice, a harsh, strangled tumble of words spilling out of her mouth before she could think better of her sudden burst of annoyance. "I don't know how you expect me to get out this window and be out of sight without getting caught in just 90 seconds considering I've never climbed a grappling hook before, but sure, lead the way."



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The assassin watched her move with unfailing concentration, watched her grab the letter and abandon all her worldly possessions. A woman with very little to lose, she noted in her silence, clutching the rope with deceptive calmness. Her heart was starting to pound, anxiety over the amount of time she was in the building mounting, and she knew she had precious little time to waste before the guards would be onto her and her freshly jumbled plan of escape. Joe would have bought her time, but without the gunshot to give warning, his window of opportunity would close.

Her head snapped a fraction, fixing her with a blank and expressionless look that still managed to radiate irritation. "Enough," she said, and finally lowered the gun, slapping it back onto her hip. "It works like this, Doctor Hyles. You shut up and do exactly as I tell you for the next half hour, and maybe I'll explain why I'm sparing a doctor of all people." Her stable tone was cut with venom, her disdain briefly clear and pointed. "Get over here."

She barely waited for Hyles to be in range before she grabbed her by her collar, dragging her much lighter frame to her side, and wrapped her free arm around her waist with no respect for her personal boundaries. Her movements were fast and deliberate, wrapping the rope around her free wrist once and tossing the rest out into the night. The assassin ducked her way through the opening, and yanked Hyles and herself through, dropping off the sill and down towards the abyss of snow below.

With impressive strength, she halted both of their descents, clutching the doctor to her side with a straining arm. "Hold on," she snarled, before sliding down the rope, feet on the wall with every meter they dropped, until at last they reached the base of the building and the deep nuclear snow.

"Run, now," she told her with no uncertain terms. "But know that I will find you no matter where you go." There was no mistaking her tone: it was a threat.
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Offline heartstringss

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Hyles could have sworn her heart stopped for a second, when after she had shot off her mouth with very little consideration for the fragility of her predicament, the hooded figure snapped their head around and fixed her with a look of irritation she could feel even through the other's mask and layers of dark clothing. Green eyes followed the gun as it moved back onto the figure's hip, her mouth promptly snapping shut as soon as she was told to do so. She was nothing if not an obedient little worker bee, always had been even since childhood. Hadley knew it too, and took advantage of this fact on the daily -- but even still, the anger bristled like quills rising along her spine, just beneath the surface.

She was always so calm, so steady, serious and determined, until she was pushed too far. The only problem was, she had little or no outlet for her anger and frustration -- which is why, more often than not, that same anger was forced inward, reflected like a bit of light off a mirror right back at herself. Hence, the cutting, the self-sabotage, the intense self-hatred... among other things.

Whenever the assassin stepped forward and grasped her collar between their fingers, the doctor recoiled slightly, though not necessarily putting up a resistance at the same time. She wasn't used to being touched, so as the other's fingers curled into the neck of her shirt and dragged her in closer, Lyra gritted her teeth against the mounting discomfort and stumbled forward. She had to force herself to remain calm, lest this situation take any worse a turn than it already had. Fortunately, she didn't have much time to think about it before the other's arm was twisting around her waist and she was being tugged in way too close for comfort, then promptly tossed out the open window.

Her breath halted in a sharp, sudden gasp, as her heart climbed up the narrow column of her chest and settled into her throat instead. Hyles was hardly aware of her arms snaking around her captor's torso and grasping on for dear life -- something she never would have imagined herself doing in any other circumstances, and yet, neither was dropping at a dead weight through the air out an open window. She was impressed at the other woman's strength --- as after much deliberation, Lyra had determined that her captor seemed to be a woman. Especially by the vague shape of their body through the close contact in that achingly long, torturous descent.

She was hardly aware of her nails (or maybe it was more accurate to say her fingertips, considering she had no nails to speak of) biting into the sides of the other woman's torso, her hold strong and almost desperate, a fear of heights she'd never realized until this first moment of falling. It was better once they were climbing down the wall meter by meter instead of falling through the air like they had been for the first few seconds, but the whole situation had her launching into a full-body panic, albeit a silent one at that.

It wasn't until they finally reached the ground that she began to relax some, and even then the moment didn't last very long. Her arms dropped from the other's waist as suddenly as if she'd been burned, and she stumbled for a moment before at last getting her bearings straight and rising solidly back to her feet. Wild eyes skirted briefly along the horizon, then jerked back to the black-outfitted figure still standing close beside her, just as ominous and threatening as it had been upstairs in the commune, but now also a little more so.

Run, now. The figure's voice said, ice almost seeming to drip from their tone. But know that I will find you no matter where you go.

She took off at a dead sprint, running as if her life depended on how quickly she could get as far away from the commune as possible. She had no idea where to go, as it was rare these days that anyone of her status ever ventured out into the world without some form of security detail following close behind. She was lucky, if for nothing else, for her long legs and incredible stamina; the many hourless nights spent in the exercise room of the commune blowing off steam hardly amounted to nothing.

Before too long, she could already feel her skin tightening painfully across her face, lungs aching miserably, hands and every other bit of stupidly exposed skin promptly frozen to the touch by the sheer strength of wind through this neverending nuclear blizzard. Lyra wasn't sure how far she had run, or even where she was, when she at long last ducked through the gaping mouth of a nearby abandoned building and collapsed into a dark corner of the room as far away as possible from any open windows or doors.

The doctor tucked into the warmth of her coat, drawing her hood up low over her face and pulling her hands into the sleeves, hoping that if she curled into as tight a ball as she possibly could, she might be able to soak up at least a tiny bit of warmth, and hopefully ditch the earth-shattering chill that had settled into her bones.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2019, 07:16:31 PM by heartstringss »


Offline yautjan

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The assassin watched her scurry away with some satisfaction--at least this doctor seemed to want to escape, too, rather than immediately attempt to alert the guard. Not that anything could've stopped her now that she was outside. The snow, while deep, was her turf. There was no chance that the guards would catch her with their plan in motion. She snapped the rope, dislodging the hook and watching it recoil and cascade back to earth. She caught it deftly, swinging the grappling hook once before pocketing the whole contraption.

With her belongings returned, she took off in a sprint, deftly weaving through the natural dips in the snow and getting off the ground as soon as the next building was in reach. She threw herself up to a broken second-story window, running up the wall to propel her body enough to grasp the icy sill with her gloved fingers. She pulled herself through with gritted teeth and rolled down onto the floor.

"What the--" One of the guards, slacking on the job, looked up from where he'd been sitting against the far wall. The assassin sprung up and was on him like a wolf, drawing a knife from her thigh and slashing his throat.

"Don't worry," she whispered, leaving her calling card--a small, orange origami flower. "I've got better things to do now." And she was gone again--slipping through the shadows and weaving through the broken buildings with practiced ease. Through the fleeting glimpses of the outdoors she could follow Hyles's trail, and it was not long at all before the assassin found her hiding spot.

She came in on the second floor, The rafters to the upstairs were bared in some places, and so she dropped down once she was certain of the doctor's position within the building, landing in a practiced crouch before the other woman.

"Now," she said, drawing herself back up. "Let's discuss why I didn't kill you."

She approached swiftly, moving to block the doctor's escape, but visibly unarmed at the moment's time besides the gun on her hip. She pulled out her tablet, poking a few keys on its screen, before turning it to face the doctor--a profile, with a zoomed-in picture of the doctor from her last excursion outside, a long list of details in small block letters accompanying it. It detailed in brief her daily schedule, her known affiliations, and mostly, her crimes. At the very top of the screen, in big red letters, was the word "Kill".

"This is my order," she said. "And this is why I received it. You have done much to harm the progress of humanity, Hyles." She lowered the tablet, snapping it back in place. "And yet, death would be mercy for you. No. I have a much better idea than death."

The woman reached up--and offered her a hand to shake. "Join us. Your knowledge is privileged. Your scars reveal your despair. Help us put an end to this." She paused for a beat. "Or don't. Do your best to explain why it looks like you escaped and murdered one of your own scouts. It's up to you."
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Offline heartstringss

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Hardly any time had passed when at last the doctor could sense that she was no longer alone within her abandoned safehouse. She rose shakily to her feet, legs a little sore from the dead sprint she had taken off on, unsure whether her suspicion was simply from the heightened paranoia or something else altogether. Her eyes swept across the building, seeing nothing out of the ordinary -- but just as she was about ready to sit down and curl back into the warmth of her coat, a body dropped down from the rafters and landed crouched on the floor right before her.

A pale fist clutched at the space just over her heart, as if she could feel the organ straining to burst from her chest that very second. Lyra wasn't sure why she was so incredibly jumpy tonight, as normally she was much more composed. But perhaps it was the combination of the new shipment arrival, the especially long shift at work, the horrible drowning nightmare, and the death threat which had her so on edge.

The brunette stood still as a statue, maintaining her distance but still paying close attention as the other woman approached and began fiddling with the screen of a worn old tablet pulled off of a holster attached to her belt. When the still-cloaked figure turned the tablet to face in her direction, revealing a screen littered with information and a sharp black-and-white profile of yours truly, the doctor found she could barely read the order past the first few lines. She was grateful for the hood still pulled low over her head, something she could retreat into like a dark corner of her mind where all her worst fears resided.

She glazed over the details of known affiliations and her schedule, which had never been that much of a secret to begin. However, it was the list of her crimes that had her throat clenching like a pair of hands had wrapped around her neck cutting off all her air supply. She registered the other woman's voice continuing on, still distorted from the mask, through a thick fog of anxiety that had welled up inside and was scratching to get out.

She didn't need to see the names spread out over a list to know the depth of all her crimes against humanity over the last several years... their faces were engrained in her memory, haunting her in in her nightmares.

Eyes narrowed, Lyra caught herself staring off over the other woman's shoulder with a fixed, intense angry remorse blacking out her entire consciousness. She only snapped back to the present whenever a flash of movement in her peripherals caught her companion's hand reaching out, extended as if in invitation for a handshake --

"Join you?" The question came out more as a bark of laughter than she had originally intended. She eyed the gloved hand stretched before her with a skepticism akin to distrust. Even still, her own hands remained tucked deep inside her coat pockets, stubborn and warm. "How could I possibly join you?"

She racked her brain of the possibilities. The woman's cynical second option was hardly acknowledged due to its impractically; she knew exactly how a situation like that would turn out, as it was more likely she'd end up on an all-too-familiar mortuary slab still warm before one of her comrades as a new breed of traitors-turned-test-subjects. But joining the revolution, that just... didn't even seem vaguely possible.

"How could anyone in the revolution possibly accept me moving in amongst their ranks, after everything I have done?"  She couldn't hold the other woman's gaze, or what little semblance of a shared gaze there was through the mask. She felt defeated, more empty than she had ever felt before. Even more quietly, she asked, almost as if to herself, "How could I possibly face their families?"


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The outburst was met unfazed. The assassin did not flinch, nor make any indication that she had even heard her words immediately. It was Hyles's second sentence that finally illicit a response from the mysterious, masked woman.

"And that," she said, "Is why I did not kill you." The assassin's hand dropped back to her side, resting comfortably on her hip. Her casualness was deceptive, and apparently so; her body was still tense, her hand ready to grab the gun, her face an unending black abyss of indifference. Her sympathy was still well concealed, bared as it was in her actions to spare Hyles's life.

She tapped the tablet with her other hand, fingers light on its case. "I have every reason to kill you, but I have decided to not do so. You should face them. You should tell them why you did it. What forced you into the position you are in now. Because, Doctor, I have this feeling you were indeed forced. Am I wrong? Did you do this of your own free will, or did those screams come from something far shallower than your guilt? You tell me."

The assassin leaned into one hip, raising a hand to brush some snow off her chest. "As for the resistance accepting a doctor of all people into their ranks... you're certainly not the first traitor, though perhaps one of the most valuable. You let me worry about them, and you worry about redeeming yourself in our quest to put an end to the atrocities occurring in that god-forsaken building."

She looked the doctor straight in the eye, despite the mask's concealment. "Know when an olive branch is extended to you, Hyles. You decide if you want to take it or not."
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The doctor listened to the assassin's reasoning with such intense vulnerability, yet she wasn't sure how she managed to stay firmly rooted to the ground and not just give in right away. The casualness of the other woman's movements was, indeed, very deceptive, but sympathy was the last thing Lyra would have assumed the other to be feeling towards her. How could anyone be sympathetic, knowing what they knew about all the terrible things she had done over these last several years? And yet, it was difficult to ignore the other woman's reason.

She wasn't wrong: Hyles' position and knowledge would make her a valuable ally and inside man, and her obvious guilt and overflowing remorse did show a humanity that was rare amongst her ranks... but there was so, so much more to it than that.

When the other woman voiced her opinion of how Hyles might have ended up in this position to begin with, stating that she believed Hyles truly had been forced into it, a flicker of hard emotion passed over the pale-skinned woman's face. She had a feeling the question was more rhetorical than anything else, and even if she knew she could have been wrong in that assumption, she remained silent all the same. Again, she wasn't wrong, but some things were just too hard to talk about out loud.

It was true, this really was an olive branch. An opportunity she might not ever get again, and one which guaranteed she would never have to hurt another innocent living soul again. It definitely wasn't the easiest choice she would ever make, but then again, that list grew longer every day.

She really only had two choices: Between joining the revolution and attempting to redeem herself (which might not even be possible, but had a distant silver living), or being taken back to the commune and forced to atone for her suspected treason ...

Well, in the end, was there really any question of which of the two she might choose?

"Okay," she heard herself mutter, the words coming out almost too quiet until she spoke up a second time a little bit louder. Her voice still maintained a tremor, as she couldn't help imagining how she would possibly be able to face the victim's families, even after trying to explain what had led her to this position in the first place. "Okay. I'll join you."


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The assassin didn't react immediately, letting Hyles get her words out as few as they were, before she finally nodded, once and clear. A nod of approval from the woman who'd attempted to murder the doctor, the irony wasn't lost on the assassin. Rather, it was a nod of approval from a revolutionist to one of the monsters in the commune. Perhaps this monster could be tamed and reshaped into something far better, and that was what she was counting on in the rash decision to save Hyles's life.

"Let's not stay out here, then," she said. "I'm going to take you to one of our abandoned bunkers. I'll need to know you're sincere before I let you approach my fellow men and women. There will be reprieve from the snow, so I suggest you stay close if you intend to get there unfrozen." She turned away with that, heading towards the door and peering outside. With the night still in full force, they had hours before the streets would stir again with life, fearful and silent as it would be with the commune so close.

"Now," she said. "Let's move."

She lead the way, keeping to the ground despite her instincts to get up into the framework of the abandoned buildings surrounding. They did not have far to go, but it felt like a thousand miles trenching through the deep snow and blizzard gales. How much longer did they have before their presence was noticed? Or, worse, until the guards realized one of their comrades was dead? She hoped it would be enough--it would be a shame to abandon the doctor so soon after recruiting her.

"Down here," she announced after a bit, turning into a building with snow sunken in around it. A big of digging revealed a door, which she kicked open and slid in with apparent confidence that it would lead somewhere safe. "Hurry up!"
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