“If you don’t want to help, fine. I’ll do it on my own.”
“Ferrell! Stop! Just hear me out!” The red haired, freckle-faced young man grabbed his shoulder with a bright red hand. “You can’t do this. You know that. These are the rules you agreed to when you joined.”
Ferrell pushed the hand away. “If the Captain isn’t here, there is no point in having rules. There is no SOLA without him, Regi.”
“There’s more than one place for a hitmen to find work,” he replied quietly.
“We are not hitmen!”
“We are hired to kill people-- that’s what hitmen are!”
Ferrell took a shaky breath, “I joined because I don’t agree with that and how it’s changed us. I fight to stop that alone.” He nodded his head towards Regi’s hands.
Regi looked down at his open palms. The redness, dark near his fingertips, turned lighter as it ran up both his arms, fading to his normal skin tone near his elbows. The red, tender, and infected looking skin was actually extremely tough, dry, and perfectly normal. It was called the Red Touch, a name that originated back in the 32nd century by people who were scared and confused by this new phenomena.
In the 33rd century, it was found that the condition was caused by an increasing amount of electricity in the body-- a nervous system gone haywire. Researchers suspected that it was a result of environmental stimulation, generations of consuming toxins at every turn.
The first cases died of heart attacks and organ failure, the increasing amount of electricity too much for the body to handle. However, as years passed, the Red Touch remained, and the people began to adapt. Tougher and drier skin made them less resistant to electrical shocks from outside the body, and on the inside, they learned how to control it. It was learned that if those with the condition could release that energy periodically, their body would be able to function without risk of an Overload.
It wasn’t possible for people to do this on their own, so special gloves and pads were made and patented by a man called Baxter J. Larheim, currently the richest man alive, to be worn and could easily channel and release the electricity. The Larheim’s ended saving millions of people with the Touch as well as those to come as the numbers continued to climb on a global scale. Of course, the researchers and scientists back then could never have predicted the chaos that would come from this life saving invention.
When the Third Depression overtook America in the 34th century, machines were replaced with people-- human generators-- to give thousands employment. The trend grew to replace machines with the cheaper and unending supply of laborers as now 99.999% of the global population was infected. It became standard practice to keep a few hundred people in factories 24/7 to keep everything running, all the while sending menial paychecks back home or to untouched bank accounts. Additionally, because the people had signed up for the work voluntarily, with few other option for income, there was nothing the government could do. The lawyers lied, politicians and rebellious workers were paid off, and nothing was changed.
“The Touch has turned us into little more than machines. We shouldn’t live like this.”
“You mean, we shouldn’t live like this. Not you,” Regi said with in a low tone, taking a long look at Ferrell’s pale hands. He shoved them in his pockets. “But,” Regi said, more thoughtfully this time, “it’s not like it’s so bad. This Touch, it makes us stronger. While I agree with you-- we are not assembly line generators to be used up like one-hit batteries-- I know I wouldn’t be alive today if not for these,” he said, holding up a red hand. “And neither would the Captain. He knows the price of this power, and he’s willing to pay it. There is nothing more we can do except walk away.”
Ferrell pulled his hands out of his pockets, thinking as he rubbed his non-reddened wrists. “I’m sorry. I just can’t agree with that.” He lifted a duffel bag from the floor and onto his shoulder as he turned away.
“Ferrell! You’re making a mistake!” Regi called after him. “You stupid Clean! You’re as good as dead if you go after him! Do you hear me, Ferrell? DEAD!”
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