Without Mercies

I’ve got a much shorter story this week to finish out the year and back to Sci-Fi too. At roughly 6,200 words this is really short by my standards, but it was an idea that came to me and so I ran with it. I’m never sure how long something is going to be until I’ve written it, and often underestimate the length convinced it’s going to be little more than a couple pages. Anyway, that’s enough minor inside baseball (which being a non-American feels weird to say). I’ll be interested if the story goes how people think it’s going too, before they get to the end and finish it that is. All I’ll say is things are not necessarily what they seem here. You’ll probably all guess within the first ten lines now I’ve said that. Oh well, it is what it is and when doing these intros it can be really difficult not to spoil things. Only other thing I have to say is I hope you had a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Excruciating, that is the only way Leon Kilpatrick can describe the pain and it’s coming from everywhere. That isn’t him being overdramatic; the pain really is coming from everywhere. So much so that he cannot begin to attempt to decipher which parts of him are screaming loudest. It is simply a mass of pain, a giant one. How he is awake, cognisant, he does not know. He could make guesses; they all involve having been pumped full of drugs but whether true or not he cannot say. He doesn’t remember being jabbed with anything but then he doesn’t remember much of how he came to be in this state.

A fresh burst of pain sees him roar, violently. He’s talking all the time but saying absolutely nothing. It’s nonsensical gibberish being blurted out into the world because of fear, mountainous fear.

Leon does not think it has ever been anywhere near this level in all his… He screams again before issuing a plea to no one. It is spoken only to the void. To the darkness beyond the fringes of the retina searing brightness the three spotlights shone directly at him create. He can’t look at them and even if he could wouldn’t want to. Part of his brain tells him, no demands, he look at the state he is in. He refuses convinced it would be far too much to bear. And so he is looking everywhere else with vague and desperate hopes of making out something in the inky black that makes up the bulk of his surroundings. If there is anything out there he sure as hell cannot see it. It’s like he’s trapped in a bubble detached from the rest of the world. He can’t be, that isn’t possible and yet that is how it feels to him.

Feels, should I really say that? He hasn’t an answer. Likely he shouldn’t for all he truly feels is pain. It’s the prevailing constant in his mind. Everything else is fleeting. It might not seem it but it is. It’s as though he is drifting in and out of consciousness continually every few seconds but he isn’t. At least he doesn’t think he is. Rather, he is sure he is awake, wide awake. Sleep sounds blissful for it would welcome death.

Voices fill his ears. He hears them but cannot make out the words they speak. It feels as though he is underwater or cotton wool is stuffed in his ears. Not something that is entirely foreign to Leon because he spent a great deal of time in the pool when he was young. This was long before he set foot into the murky world of business. Those were good days, the best of days. He loved being in the pool, until the day he didn’t. His coach was a real ballbuster. Thought there was no room or need for enjoyment because if you were good at something then you should immediately transition from it being a hobby to a being a… job. Leon isn’t sure that is quite what Coach Igor had in mind and yet it was how he made them all feel.

You see Leon had been on the school swimming team. He went to meets, took part in competitions, regional challenges, the whole shebang. And to stay competitive he had to get up at five am every morning to hit the pool and get in his practice. It was exhausting and gave little time for rest and relaxation. Still, it built character. At least that is what Coach Igor would say. Maybe it did but it made Leon hate the pool. He hasn’t been near one in years. He can tell too. His physique, while still decent, isn’t what it used to be. But he didn’t care and then life took over.

“Stubborn son of a bitch this bit.” Are the first words which reach and register in Leon’s ears.

He thinks it might be progress. Then he wishes he’d heard nothing for something sharp, cold and spinning slices through his flesh, he thinks on his right arm. He screams, at the top of his lungs, but the pain doesn’t pause, it continues and soon is slicing through more than flesh. He cries, tears streaming down his face. There is no acting tough; trying to make out what is happening is not horrendously painful because it is. He doubts anyone would be capable of fronting it out, pretending. If they could they might be a fool, or dead. Leon wishes he was dead at this moment because it must be better than what he’s going through right now. That is his thinking anyway.

“Just get it done. We’re on the clock.”

Clock, what clock? I don’t know. Well then think. I’m trying! Stop berating me. You think this is easy? You think being hacked apart… They’re body thieves!

The realisation hits Leon like a sudden kick to the crotch delivering so much shock he momentarily forgets about the torturous pain being inflicted upon him. Yet, why did he not think of it earlier? Who cares! True, it matters little…

He screams again and then for the first time since his ordeal began, however long ago he cannot say, he manages to return to a thought. Progress, he thinks only to soon ask whether that is really true. Sure he has an idea of what he thinks is happening but it doesn’t do one iota to change it. More cutting rips his mind away from him and sends him into blood curdling howls and screeches.

“Should we shut him up? He’s making an awful lot of noise.”

“Nah, why?”

“Encase someone hears.”

“No one’s going to hear.”

“How can you be so sure?”

 “Trust the process.”

Trust the process, what process? Another round of screams follow. His mind is no longer swimming in the pain, barely treading water but drowning amongst it. In Leon’s head he imagines it as a dome filling with water that has no exits save for a metal grate at the very centre of the dome which try as he might he cannot defeat. It’s the only place he is capable of getting air and with the water level almost to the grate it is stupidly difficult to get even a half gasp to keep himself alive.

Get used to it! How? I’m dying. They’re slicing me to ribbons! How do you want me to get used to iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit?

Remarkably this time the pain doesn’t derail his mind. Does that mean I am getting used to it? I hope not. This is not something I wish to get used to. You’ll have to if they’re stealing your organs and limbs. Shut up! Don’t say that. I refuse to listen. You have to listen. No I don’t. I do not have to listen, to accept. Then what are you going to do?

Suddenly the cutting stops and the pain ebbs slightly, not by much but just enough for Leon to no longer feel as though he is drowning. Thoughts, beside agony, creep back into his head. He realises he heard voices. There were at least two. Neither sounded as though they were the ones carving him, he cannot say as to why that is his conclusion however, which means there must be three, at a minimum. So? What do you mean so? I need to know how many there are if I’m to…

The cutting resumes. Leon’s screams resume too; his throat and voice tearing painfully as a result. He needs liquid, a drink but doubts one will be provided to him. He tries to beg for water, for something to stop the burn at the back of his throat but he can’t. Trashes ensue; they do little to aid him but do a great deal to exhaust. He didn’t think he could feel worse than he did but it seems he was wrong. Focus! He does, or at least attempts to, it’s difficult, ruthlessly so.

Ruthless, that’s a good way of defining how he is being treated here. It should not surprise him but it does. Regardless of the fact that he’d heard tell of a sudden spike in body thefts but didn’t think it would ever happen to him. Isn’t that what everyone says? Yeah it is but it’s true, I never thought this would happen to me. I’m nobody, I run a business. Hence why you, you’re a nobody. But people will miss me. Will they?

Feeling disdained by the thought that no one may miss him he is a tad thankful when a jolt of pain, from yet another fresh location somewhere about him he cannot comprehend, derails him from his mental path. He never returns to it. There is no need for it will not help him with the situation he currently finds himself in.

What can I do? What can I do? He asks the question dozens of times until it becomes like a song. It’s the worst song and one that is stuck in his head to boot. He loathes it, himself, for having started this chant. Even the voice in his head is reciting it as if through angry gritted teeth.

“Half way done.”

We’re only half way?

“Good, ahead of schedule.”

There’s a schedule! What the fuck! Who are these people? Body thieves! I know that. That wasn’t what I meant. Then don’t say…

He cuts the internal struggle short and against his better judgement thinks his only hope is to reason, bargain. These people are business savvy, they want money, maybe they need it and that’s why they’re doing this. Yeah sure, that makes sense. That makes a whole heap of sense in fact. Exactly; so if I bargain with them I might be able to get out of this, alive. Is that what you really want? What? Of course I want to get out of this alive, why wouldn’t I? Have you seen yourself? No, no I haven’t seen myself and I don’t want to. Not yet. Then be careful what you wish for. What does that mean, what do you know? Nothing. How can I know anything I’m just a part of your subconscious? I’m just saying, suggesting, reasoning, that you may want to be careful what you wish for. After all, if you succeed, whatever state you’re in is how you’ll remain; keep that in mind. Leon refuses too and instead attempts to speak.

Quickly he learns it’s far more difficult than he had expected and to begin with all that leaks from his gaping maw are soft air noises. It sounds, what little he can hear of it in his ears because of the cutting noises he refuses to think about but which must be of bone, meagre and pathetic. At barely a volume you can consider a whisper.

He attempts to clear his throat. It doesn’t work. He nearly chokes on… He cannot say whether it is air or spit. You have no spit! I must have spit! With an argument threatening to erupt again Leon abandons, pulls out. Mercifully his subconscious offers no refusal and makes no push to press the issue. Following that he tries again to speak. This time a little more escapes his mouth, not speech but a series of pitch varying gurgles. It’s progress but not what he would consider worthwhile, which is why he makes a third try.

Muttering, his voice is quiet, ragged and fading as words are spoken to the air around him, his eyes locked on one of the bulbs shining into his face. It hurts but feels like nothing compared to what he’s suffered through and continuing too thus far.

Oddly the cutting is no more. The noise of what he could only assume was a saw has dropped away, fallen silent. Alas the torment is not over for he can feel probing, prodding, digging. The movement is of flesh and tissue; he nearly vomits at the thought when his mind conjures something of a possibility vividly into being.

Leon has never been good with gore; he loathes and has spent his life doing everything in his power to keep away from it. It’s not as hard as you might think, or at least it wasn’t until now.

A flash of something enters his head. It’s so fast he only gets a fragment of it instead of the whole thing. He tries to ignore the digging in his flesh and focus on the flash. He’d like to call it a memory but has no reason to do so. He needs to see more to be capable of reaching a conclusion but the flash won’t return. He cannot repeat the feat unintentionally performed and that devastates him.

BEG!

Oh right, he remembers that was his plan. He’d had it and then got derailed, sent off on another train of thought. He doesn’t recall what the other train of thought was or the one that followed that only that… Stop! BEG!

“P-p-please…” Is all Leon manages when he does finally speak. His mind said a great deal more than that, but it’s a start.

Keep going. He intends too.

“P-please… stop…”

Progress!

“Please… stop… this…”

“Hey, he’s talking.”

“And?”

“Is he meant to be talking?”

There is a pause which hangs in the air. It’s the sort of pause which implies disbelief at the content of the last words uttered. It wasn’t from Leon and so he continues. It is whoever’s problem if they take issue with what each are saying, not his.

“Please, stop this… I… beg… of you.”

Breathing is difficult, Leon is short of air. He hauls, as best he can which isn’t great, air down to re-inflate his lungs. He prays that will solve the issue, that he is capable, his body not his mind. His mind is capable but his body he cannot be so sure of. He doesn’t know what’s been done to it after all. It might not be capable. He damns these people for what they’re doing to him. He hasn’t done that since the first bouts of pain lanced through sending him into convulsions.

They did give me something!

The realisation is sudden, sharp, painful. It’s good that details are coming back to him and not. He hates being more aware of how this torture came to be and yet doing so may be his only hope. Cling to hope. You have to cling to it. Do not let it go. If you let it go you’re done for. You don’t want to be done for, do you? No, no I don’t. I want to live. I want to survive. Then cling, beg, discover.

“Please…” Leon’s voice is much louder this time, though he does not wait for acceptance that these bastards will listen to him. Rather, he launches into his offer.

“I can pay you. I have money, a decent amount of money. It should be enough. But please stop. I don’t want to die. I don’t deserve to die.” There are plenty of stutters, stammers, pauses and deep breaths which break up the statements as Leon spoke those words and made his offering to these people, wherever they are around him.

Another flash. Again it comes and goes too fast. He wills them to be slower and to come back. There is no reply to his willing, there is only silence.

“Is he serious?” Someone says in a voice which sounds like all the others that have reached his ears. Whether they are or whether it is his hearing deceiving him he cannot say. It would make sense for it to be the latter, especially as his hearing remains unclear.

To make matters worse those words might not have been the first spoken in response to his pleas, and if that is true he will never know. Still, it confuses Leon why they are flummoxed. Are they not used to people, their victims, begging and pleading? They must be, unless victims are not usually conscious. Terror swells within him numbing everything. Leon feels as though he has been transported, with a snap of fingers, into an endless hole. He’s falling through it but it has no end, he just keeps falling with only a tiny speck of white light shining down from what looks to be miles above him. He’s reaching for it, pointlessly, urging an end to come. Then someone else speaks.

“Sounds like it.” A laugh quickly follows, it’s mocking and cruel.

Leon hates whoever this is the most he decides for there was no need for such a reaction. There’s no need for any of this!

“What should we do?”

“What do you think we should do?” Is the sharp, blunt reply which bounces the question right back on whoever uttered it.

There is no reply for a while, as far as Leon can tell. Again he considers his hearing may have failed him. That he is missing great chunks of a conversation which could offer him…

“You continue working. We’re nearly done.” The reply is a demand and its delivered with a flat calm tone of voice.

“Should we shut him up though?”

“You know what comes next, it isn’t going to matter, so just get… it… done.”

Following that there is no more conversation but there is the familiar, despised return of soul crushing agony. Leon tries to speak, to issue a fresh set of begging but can’t. The pain feels worse than ever. He can’t say that it is, though that is how it feels. In fact, it’s so much worse he feels himself grit his death, clinging to hope as best he can. Soon they begin to grind, his teeth that is. He knows it’s something you shouldn’t do but he cannot help himself. It’s his instinctive reaction and try as he might, which isn’t a great deal to be honest, he cannot stop. That is why his jaw is beginning to hurt, he thinks. If it’s not him causing the pain in his jaw then…

He doesn’t finish the thought. They can’t be working on his jaw. If they were he would see them but he can see nothing. It’s as if they have no shadows because no shape obscures the lights blurring his eyes.

He’s looked at them too long, forced himself too and now his vision is butchered. It isn’t permanent, not like what is being done to his body and limbs. He imagines there isn’t much left of him now; a torso carved open, stripped of parts as if he is some machine. It’s despicable, disgusting, abhorrent, cruel.

Maybe it is better this way. That is the thought that creeps into his head some time later. No. No it is not better this way. The voice is different. It is his but holds a different intonation and tone to what he’s heard up to this point. Clearly it is angry, resolute, determined.

You hang on to hope and you get out of this.

How?

As he expected, knew, there came no reply. Disgusted he returns to the pain, his thrashing. His body and muscles are exhausted, spent of energy. But is it real? What do you mean? Is the exhaustion real? Why would it not be real? Because I might not have limbs! I might have been stripped. Then why would you feel them? Phantom limbs, it’s called phantom pain. Your brain unable to comprehend the loss sends signals as though they are still present. Don’t be mad, you don’t have phantom pain. How do you know?

By now Leon is used to not getting replies and so when none is issued he isn’t surprised. He isn’t anything honestly.

“Please, stop this. I can pay you whatever you need. I own a business. It’s profitable. I’ll give you all that’s in its account, just please stop.” Tears are streaming down Leon’s face as he blubbers the words into the ether with desperation. “Please… I don’t want to die…”

His pleas fall on deaf ears. Hate boils up. It’s invigorating and fills him with a new lease of life. He screams, for the first time not from pain and feels his body move.

“Oh shit! He’s broke the restraints. Hold him down, quick!” The voice is panicked, suggesting to Leon that he must continue his efforts and continue them he does. His body moves, he’s shocked, delighted, invigorated and wanting revenge. That is until bodies pile atop him. He thinks three, maybe four, but cannot be sure. Their intent works, Leon is pushed back into what he assumes is some kind of dentist style chair. Yet he does no admit defeat, he continues to struggle, to thrash, to push against the weight atop him. His body hurts, it’s screaming but he ignores it. Wet covers most of him. He does not dare consider what the wetness is but can guess. It wouldn’t be a wild or difficult guess to make either if he admitted it because the wetness is almost certainly blood, his blood. But admitting that, dwelling on it, what it might mean will not help him he knows and so he doesn’t.

The bodies begin to move and not of their own accord. More screams, panicked and fearful reach Leon’s ears. He hears the words, acknowledges them but cannot recall them. They are immediately lost to him because they do not matter. Something stabs into him. He lets out a groan and kicks. Weight is lifted from him in response. His struggling continues resulting in more panic stricken words and then out of the blue the weight disappears. A crash is heard by Leon before and once he is on his feet, he thinks they are his feet, running.

He does not look back or at his state, all he focuses on is what lies ahead. His eyes remain blurred, doubled, as they peer into the darkness. Some vague immobile shapes are all he can make out. He thinks they might be walls but cannot be sure. That is until he collides with one of them. They offer fierce resistance confirming to Leon that they must indeed be walls.

He shakes his head which makes the blurriness worse and then he turns to try and focus on what he sees. It doesn’t work. Voices grow louder, nearer. Leon assumes his aggressors are in hot pursuit. His choice is singular and he takes it.

Stumbling forward Leon breaks into a run, he thinks. His legs are heavy and feel most foreign to him he does have to admit but they’re working. Sensations ping all across his skin. He continues to refuse a glimpse, a look, and instead forces his messed up eyes into a form of tunnel vision of the route ahead. It turns again. Leon does better this time but still collides into the wall all the same as part of his change of direction.

A foot slips. He loses balance momentarily and then reclaims it. With reckless abandon he surges off ignoring the high probability of him slipping again. Air, warm and stale, rushes over his face telling him nothing he could not already have concluded, that he is inside. He hasn’t a clue as to where or in what and doesn’t rightly care. Escape is all that is on his mind. The urge sits alongside the pain he feels, but thankfully, mercifully, his determination is greater for the moment. He cannot say how long it might last much like he cannot say he’s thrilled at not having repaid those who have done whatever it is they have done to him, for it seems he has all his limbs.

Escape and survival are more important than revenge. Revenge is for those with odds on their side and resources. Leon has no such things, he doesn’t think. He is one man; wounded, terrified, lost in a place he doesn’t recognise and so escape is all that matters he feels.

Another turn sees him skirt the wall but not collide fully with it this time; progress indeed. To boot the voices in pursuit are quieter. Still, Leon is not convinced their volume is not forced, a part of some plan unknown and unwanted by him.

Not long after that he stumbles off something, the ground beneath him having vanished from underfoot. He drops. Somehow he lands on his feet. He feels the thud as well as hears it, just. His ears remain wrong much like his eyes. He pumps his legs, wills them to hasten, they oblige. Lights flick by overhead and the air he finds has turned cool. He concludes he is outside now.

Looking around Leon is greeted with hard shapes in the darkness. The lights are a good distance up. At least he thinks they are up. He cannot comprehend that they could be anything else. Meanwhile, his heart is frantic, beating at ten to the dozen. His chest hurts too; not from what was done to him in that room, in that chair, but from all the running.

I have to keep going, he tells himself. I have to. There must be a way out. I can get to safety. I can survive.

Hope is all he has. That isn’t true; he has his freedom, but doesn’t think it appropriate to declare as such until he can be sure he is safe. When will that be? I don’t know, just keep running.

He makes a turn at a junction when he comes upon it and then stops. Spinning about he finds that he’s surrounded by containers, stacked high. The lights are lower now; closer to ground, closer to him. They hurt but the pain barely registers after what he’s suffered through. His chest is heaving, he is slick. His head snaps between his options, ignoring the avenue he came from.

Is my initial decision the right one? He doesn’t know. He hates that he doesn’t know. Stop panicking. Calm yourself. He tries but it doesn’t work. He hears something and almost jumps out of his skin. What was that? No idea; and with that he forces his body back into a sprint.

He manages only a handful of strides and then trips. His balance is almost regained when he trips again. Flying through the air he fears where he may land, what state he end up in. Then he crashes into something cold and hard. It rings like a drum made of metal. His chest reminds him that it is tight. He pushes off against the metal and stumbles. His leg burns. He crumples to all fours. Get up! GET UP! He screams at himself. Scrambling, feet slipping against loose dirt, he manages to get back on his feet eventually. Alas, he feels unsteady, dizzy. His head is spinning. He steadies himself against the metal that broke his fall. His head shakes. A thousand things race through as a result and then… a flash. He blinks fast and then slow. Pieces of the image remain in his vision, on the inside of his eyelids. He can’t make them out. His brow furrows while he continues to blink. A clattering sound rings out. His head snaps in the direction he believes it has come from with breath held. He sees nothing. His vision is clearer now, marginally, but a long way from what he would be comfortable with calling normal. It’s all you’ve got! He’s aware. He does not argue or refute. No other sound reaches his ears. He feels he can remain here no longer than he has. To do so would be to risk recapture. Recapture?

In that moment he remembers, memory triggered. He’d been walking down a street heading for a multi-storey when he got jumped. A van, dark and without markings, pulled up alongside. Its side roller door flung open in the fractions of a second before he was grabbed and bundled inside. He had no time at all to react. Something was smashed against his skull; it incapacitated but did not rob him of consciousness. Then something was pulled over his head. It might have been a bag; he cannot say other than it made it impossible for him to see in the darkness of the van’s interior. He remembers something else; voices, chatting idly, but none of the content of their conversation. He tries to think. He continues to draw blank. Something is missing. He can feel it. However, the more he pushes for it the further it feels as though it is. He hears the screech of tyres which ends his contemplation and urges him back into action.

His first fresh steps following the memory are uneasy, stumbling, but soon after them Leon is back at a sprint. He feels slower, as though he is moving through treacle. He makes a turn feeling it prudent encase he is being pursued still.

Wherever he is seems to be a maze; a port perhaps? Again he stumbles and so decides not to consider anything other than the task at hand; running, fleeing for his life.

Several more twists and turns, completely optional but which he believes are essential, see him slam into yet another mass of metal. There was no trip, or series of them, on this occasion, mercifully. Rather, he slammed, shoulder first, into the metal ‘wall’ because he can barely stand.

Air seems incapable of reaching lungs and his vision, which had been improving, has begun narrowing to pinpricks. He shakes his head feeling hotter than he thinks he has ever felt previously in his life and slips off the metal. He stumbles and then hears voices. His eyes to wide affording him no more vision than previously; he is terrified, his heart already thundering somehow manages to quicken its pace in response. He hates the feelings afflicting him, tries to run, finds he can’t. Hope vanishes in that moment, unwillingly. Leon becomes convinced he is mere seconds from being recaptured and the butchering upon him resumed/concluded. Then he hears laughs, giggles, chatter. All of it is joyous. It sounds like a party. It makes not an ounce of sense to Leon but he doesn’t care, it doesn’t matter. Hope returns in a burst. He believes now that the noises must be people, not linked to those who have done… whatever it is they have done to him. An attempt at a smile flickers into being, he feels it. It feels incorrect. He can’t say wrong for smiling isn’t wrong.

Another flash hits. This one hurts; sends a searing pain through his head. He suppresses a scream. He can’t say why. Perhaps so not to alarm the voices he can hear. Why? They can help! Not if I scare them away, is his response swift and blunt.

He urges his legs to move. They hesitantly oblige on the third demand he makes of them. Still, Leon fumbles using the metal ‘wall’ to guide and keep him upright. Then the ‘wall’ ends. He rounds it unsure if he’s heading in the right direction. It’s why he soon turns to listening. The joyous sounds continue, he thinks louder this time, and so he continues too.

Once they are much louder, the voices which continue to sound merry, Leon makes an effort to call out for aid. His throat is dry, it hurts, and so it isn’t surprising when little more than a whisper is burped out. He snarls, irritated, but is resolute and perseveres. A fresh effort at calling out is met with a dry wisp of a noise.

Not having realised that in putting so much into calling out he had come to a halt, Leon urges his legs back into motion. They oblige but are ruthlessly slow now. Again, that word. Why that word? He doesn’t know. It’s just a word, stop thinking about it. Think about the people, reaching them, calling to them. That is what matters. You’re right. Leon makes his greatest effort yet to cry for help. Nothing happens. Panic fills him. It’s as if he can no longer speak. He focuses on his neck, his throat, the sensations in it but everything feels correct. Would I know if it didn’t? There is no way he is inclined to answer that for fear of losing hope. It’s tenuous, fickle, he’s lost it several times already and thinks if it happens again he may drop into such a state of despair he will not conquer it unless found.

What are the chances of him being found? By people who are not those who have tortured his body; he feels limited to none. So push! He does. He pushes his body having given up on his voice, on calling. He staggers and stumbles turning a corner and then through a crack between what he can now clearly see are containers he gets a glimpse of bright colourful lights, buildings, people. They are scantily clad, writhing. Leon can’t hear music. In fact he realises he can’t hear anything anymore. The world is on mute. He does not pause to consider it; rather he pushes ahead, slowly growing nearer and nearer to the party. He is sure that is what it is across a street along which no vehicles are moving.

The scene is familiar, marginally, as if he has seen this club before. There is a good chance he has and that means he’s still in the city. He reaches out, arm unsteady, eyes staring and then he stops.

What? No! No don’t stop. I’m so close. Please, please… Do something! Obey!

Tears begin to well up in his eyes but no matter what he does or thinks his body does not obey and then Leon disappears with a flick of a switch.

“Asset activated and in standby.”

“Good. Run diagnostics. I want to know how far they got before he broke free.”

There is a pause; it’s filled with the tapping of keyboard caps. They are noisy in the room where the sounds of five men breathing are all there is to contend with. It’s a dark room punctured by bulbs of bright light from monitors. None of the faces are visible for everyone at a monitor is on their feet looking down on their workstations displays. This point of operation is temporary. As soon as they are done all of the equipment will be packed up and shipped out at the orders of the one man who is without a computer to work away on.

When finally the relative silence is broken the advice given is that, “All systems are showing operational.”

“Wonderful; seems the egghead surgeons did better than they suggested.”

“Yes…” The speaker never finishes. They caught their almost mistake borne out of habit. If they were not deployed in the manner they are currently then it would not be a concern but they are and so quickly follow up with, “Orders?”

“I want a full suite test of that cyberware.”

“Targets?”

A smile creeps across the commander’s face; it is all that can be seen of his features as he stands in the dark.

“Those partygoers seems like a decent option, make them the targets.”

There is no refusal and no, Leon had not been accosted by body thieves. What happened to him, the replacements and additions across his body which has given him an appearance most grotesque and barely human, were not part and parcel of the taking of limbs and organs but rather part of a field test for cutting edge cyberware.

With a flick of yet another switch, not literally, Leon, the body for the man is no more, is moved from standby to combat mode. It was the activation of standby which immobilised him when he had been a man. Had he looked at the state he was in during that period he would have seen his arms with blades grafted to them, his legs similarly too, with micro missiles embedded in his shoulders, a tail affixed to the base of his spine and many other military grade accoutrements, but alas he didn’t. He remained unaware of the monster he’d been transformed into until the very end. Maybe it was for the best, maybe it wasn’t. If he’d have known perhaps he might have been capable of using what had been done to him to his advantage. Now there is no way of ever knowing.

But with the cyberware in the Leon body having been activated and combat targets set the mass of metal and flesh moves forward, his eyes glowing red.

The next thing the quintet hears over their communications channel is screaming, lots and lots of screaming. It’s interspersed with begging, pleading and all of it for nought for ‘Leon’ has no conscience, no soul. He is a weapon now, a tool, plain and simple.

The commander of the operation smiles widely drinking in the devastation that is being wrought, for he could not be more pleased with how the cyberware is performing.

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