By: Gerard Valencia (Christian Valencia-Vasquez)
© Copyright 2011-2013 MrV
CHAPTER ONE: AWARENESS
The moment Lucius first opened his eyes a thick blur blackened his sight. Narrowing his eyes, he made out a shape, something smooth and deep beyond his reach. Everything was dark in this abyss, except for dim blue lights around him. And then, a dark shape moved past him. There was someone else with him.
He shook, feeling something sharp jab onto his stomach. He clenched his teeth. Around his ears was something he could not describe but it kept him deaf. When he attempted to turn his head, he found his neck stiff. His forehead felt heavy. Where am I?
He tried moving his arms, but grew alarmed when he found none of his commands were effective. He wanted to shout, but something was ensnared to his mouth, blocking his throat but still letting oxygen through.
Lucius shook again, now with every ounce of strength he had in him. Something in his abdomen tore and he was stunned by the shattering pain that struck every nerve in his being. The wave of sensation that ran through his body acted like sonar and enabled him to feel his arms and legs at last. He eyed his left arm beside him and reached out to whatever was in front of him. His fingertips caressed a solid surface, perhaps glass.
He moved his feet. The tips of his toes registered tickling from the current flowing through the porous surface underneath. His eyes then lost focus, the pain became unbearable. In his midsection where he felt the tearing gap, something was leaking out. Oh Gods… my guts!
Before he knew it, everything blacked out. Soon after an ominous orange circle bloomed in his mind and grew wider, revealing a white void ahead. This was followed by a blue strobe, then green rings, yellow rings and pink crescent moons. It ceased and he was back in the dark, until a web of rays he mistook for distant lightning bleached his surroundings with the radiance of an old sepia photograph. He soon realized the web was indeed electricity, rigorously dancing and exalted with life. For a split second Lucius was reminded of roots from a plant pulled out of the ground. Beyond the rays he then made out rippling waves and a human face zooming towards him. Its features existed only as the shadows casted over the non-existent face, coming alive against the negative space.
Help me. Lucius called to it. The face came closer; its gaping mouth split the head in half, revealing a Rorschach imprint reminiscent of wings. Lucius could see the wings of a butterfly closing in and opening wide. Help me.
Relax and let go, majesty. Your body sustained grave damage, it won't last. Rest, your majesty.
Lucius heard a distorted voice tell him. It sounded distant. Visually, the opening to the mouth had morphed into an eye shape.
Help me. Lucius called to it again.
Not yet. The voice responded.
I have to save them. My people need me. Lucius implored to the voice.
Not yet. The voice repeated.
The pair of peepers creased in like a divine watcher as they went through him, out of his view.
Enjoy the ride to your rebirth. The voice faded into an echo.
His surroundings then became a thick blur once again.
It took him a while before he realized he was awake. He still could not see much. To his relief he could now move his head. He reached out, his hand feeling the glass once more. Oddly, the sensation seemed alien to him. He trailed his hand over the smooth wall; the shape was slanted outward in a circular manner around him. However, before he could move far, his arm was tugged at and restrained. Connected to it were several tubes that went deep into his flesh.
Hello? To his surprise, his lips moved but no words came out.
Suddenly, he felt his bladder relax. Oh no, did I pee myself? He moved his hand down to his groin; any fluid he secreted was being drained by a catheter. He then brought his hand up to his stomach, the pain he had earlier gone. There he froze still; his fingers caressed a fleshy cord sticking out of his navel. What is this?
Lucius grew alarmed. Where was he? Why did he have all these things attached to him?
Something faint caught his attention. He heard mumbling on the other side of the wall. Are those voices? Oh… I can hear again! Where are they? He looked around, his limited sight being of little help. At last he found it right in front of him. The inaudible mumbling continued. Lucius taped at the wall. Then he heard the mumbling paused.
He eagerly waited for someone to respond. He soon became aware he could not feel any air going into his body. He freaked out and brought both hands to his neck. The tubes tugged at him but he managed to crouch down, his forehead pressed against the glass. I’m not breathing! Why am I not breathing? Am I dead?
Finally, he heard a loud knock coming from the other side. He moved away from the glass, the obscurity of his eyes frustrated him. He hit the wall again and opened his mouth to scream for help. To his horror no sound came out. He continued to feel his neck, pondering how he could still be conscious. Wait, I am breathing… but the air… there, I did it again! How can I… what am I even breathing?
Lucius heard tapping on the glass once more. He responded by knocking twice. Whoever was on the other side could see him and knew he was trying to make contact. Help, please help me…
He moved his feet and felt the porous vent again. There were several streams moving underneath his toes. His surroundings made sense to him now. He was inside a tube, floating in some kind of liquid. He was also breathing this fluid and it kept him alive the same way oxygen would.
He felt the tug of the tubing on his arms and pulled at them in annoyance. Soon he heard hissing and bubbling; he had managed to tear some of the tubes. There was desperate knocking on the glass. Lucius continued to move his arms, trying to pluck the probes out of his body.
Suddenly there was a sharp sting on his wrist. Into his intravenous emerged a cold and viscous substance. Lucius helplessly felt as the cold spread through his bloodstream, traveling up his arm and to his chest. The more he shook, the faster its narcotic effect affected him. His eyes grew heavy and he became too weak and disoriented to move. He finally closed his eyes.
Next thing he knew, he lay flat over his back. When he tried to open his eyes his head throbbed and he felt his eyelids too heavy to respond. His sensitive bare skin, upon feeling the cool air around, constricted and stiffened. A sterile smell filed his nostrils. Then he came to recognize the touch of his atrophied fingers and his nude back against a cold metallic surface. There was also a discomfort on one of his arms, one he could not understand. But none discomforted him most than the cold heavy thing at the base of his neck.
For what he thought were days, he felt all sorts of things; foremost, his navel. The cord was gone, but in its place was a swollen lump. His fingers felt the fleshy appendage, which was fused to the base of his stomach, making no distinction of where they separated. Where is my bellybutton?
Focusing into the darkness his eyes perceived, nothing had mattered most than being able to see what he could only imagine. At last he heard voices.
"It moved again!" said a man's voice in the void darkness. Lucius quickly turned his head to where he heard the voice.
"Amazing such abomination could even be alive," said a female voice, “Lucius was so handsome... this looks nothing like him!”
“He’s not supposed to be him,” the male voice responded.
Abomination? Who said that? Where am I? Lucius thought to himself. He brought his hand closer, feeling what he thought was his face. He could make out his mouth, it was deep and wet... and fanged.
This alarmed Lucius, who desperately felt for the rest of his head. There was a pair of sharp bumps where his chin would be. He felt phantoms where he expected to find grip-sized ears and found something more effective and smaller in their place. As he went further up, he felt smooth bald skin on his scalp and face. His breathing accelerated.
Where are my eyebrows!? He kept feeling for his nose but found something like a snout in its place with large nostrils to the sides. Suddenly, his hands touched protrusions similar to horns on the sides of his forehead. Theos are the only humans with these, what are they doing on my head?! What happened to my face?!
Lucius could feel his heart beating faster. He gathered enough strength to sit up. Blood rushed to his head and made him feel dazed. He held onto his head, now feeling his sunken cheekbones and pronounced brow ridge. The black veil in his eyes let a bright flash through and he found he could open his eyes now. The darkness dissolved slowly. He was about to see just what was so abominable about that face he felt.
"Welcome to the world, Morx Alpha 01," said a completely different—yet somehow familiar—voice, from a grim blurry shape he began to make out in front of him.
"My name is Doctor Woo Maladie III, and you are in my care,” the short statured silhouette said.
Lucius could make out a crowd of people in white garments standing around him, their still distorted faces hard to read. Everything was silent, save for an occasional gasp and murmur. The lights on the ceiling hurt his eyes.
"Doctor…?" replied Lucius weakly, surprised words came out of his dry lips, barely understandable through the fangs in his mouth and the pooled saliva at the back of his throat.
He paused, unable to recognize his own voice, which was deep and raspy. Then he coughed with difficulty, noticing the cold thing around his neck. He swallowed twice. Finally he caught a brief glimpse at the discomfort on his right arm. Dark markings were imprinted into his skin, and he could barely feel the bumpy scars of what they were.
"You will identify yourself with that serial number and with your collar we will ensure you don’t… disobey," Maladie said.
Lucius ran his hands over the cold steel of the collar around his neck and at the cold surface he sat on. It was an operating table. His lips twitched and his eyes gazed down at his nude torso. His skin was hairless and gray, but it was his legs that surprised him most.
"M-my legs…" Lucius muttered.
Their shape was nothing like he remembered. Instead of human they were digitigrade, hooked like a dog’s and his feet like his hands had long claws. He felt his nerves aching as he moved his knees for the first time.
This cannot be me! Lucius closed his eyes. Tears rolled down his flat cheeks. In his frustration, he wanted to cry but a roar was heard instead. Holding onto his deformed head, he roared again and then the sounds broke down into wails. None of what was happening was right, as deep in his mind, he knew the stranger whose body he inhabited was not him.
“Anatomically engineered for superior locomotion and endurance,” Maladie added and then turned to the crowd behind him, “Subject Morx Alpha 01, or Alpha for short, is without equal and the greatest creation in human history.”
Lucius growled and looked up at the doctor, whose silent shape swayed in distortion. He heard the crowd clapping. He rose from the table, wanting to reach out to the doctor, but as soon as he stepped on his new legs he collapsed face first on the ground. He shuddered, feeling weak still. He then looked down at his right arm once more, the markings read: M-01.
“As everyone can see, there are certain flaws with Alpha that require revision for future subjects,” Maladie went on.
“My name’s Lucius…”
Maladie turned to face the creature.
“LUCIUS REX!” the creature roared, “My name is Lucius Rex, not Alpha!”
“I see... Most significant is Alpha’s perceived self-awareness. Subject has delusions of being his genetic template, the comatose Lucius Rex on life support,” the Doctor stated.
“NO! I’m Lucius… I’m Lucius!” Alpha shouted from the ground.
“Now some of you may wonder how such phenomenon is possible, for a clone to have the memories of the original…
“But don’t think of this as a minor failure, instead do see this as an opportunity for valuable research… this creature can be controlled like any other. We’re scientists, we can figure it out!” Maladie forced a weak laugh.
“NO… I’m a human being!” Alpha punched on the ground, cracking the surface. His eyes widened. Did I do that?
In response, Maladie eyed Alpha unimpressed and turned his back on him.
“I must remind everyone, you must avoid reasoning with the subject. Alpha is not an animal you can feel compassion for—he’s a ruthless killing machine! A monster and the ultimate super-soldier! After years of gene-splicing, we finally did it!” Maladie was met by the ovation of those present.
Curled up on the ground, the naked creature glanced at his tattooed arm. He is wrong… I am King Lucius of the Tír na Sìorraidh… I’m Lucius… king of the Immortali of my beautiful Tír na Sìorraidh… As he repeated to himself, his body shivered and he silently sobbed.
“Alpha,” Doctor Maladie called out.
The creature looked up and gasped. Something in the doctor's voice sounded alarmingly familiar. He could finally see his captor with clarity: Doctor Maladie was a dwarf in a lab coat, with balding black hair, thick glasses and an electronic tablet under his arm. Behind him stood two large Theos in black armor, their faces concealed under their helms.
“Time to go to your cell, majesty,” Maladie grinned.