Held for hours in tiny, dark cell, Xand paced back and forth like a captive animal. Unable to see or communicate with her teammates, the anxiety of her situation mounted, and she had what they were doing with Grey. He had been hauled off in one of the vans with an army medic haphazardly attending to his injuries and that was the last she had seen or heard of him before they were separated, handcuffed, and imprisoned. Xand was getting tired of waiting and she was desperate to know if her friend was alright. She made many attempts at questioning the guard; however, he was like a statue: unmoving and silent. The only time he did react to her was when she had thrown a piece of stale bread at his back to which he responded by swiftly turning around reaching through the bars to flip the remnants of her stale food onto the floor and toss the metal tray at her head. It was all the warning she needed, and she decided to leave well enough alone. It was several hours later when Xand heard the jingling of keys and the creaking of her cell door as it slowly opened. “Looks like your time is up,” the guard sneered as three other heavily armed guards appeared to assist with the escort. She was roughly grabbed by the forearm and promptly shackled in heavy chains on her wrists and ankles. They walked down the dark hallway towards a large door that lead to another long hallway and another door which opened to a dark room with a single light and a chair with leather straps. She was pushed down into the chair and strapped in as a cold metallic device was placed onto her head.
The silent guard left the room, the heavy door closing behind him with a deafening slam. Xand knew what was about to happen and she sat there trembling in horror as the chair activated, with various needles and tubes now being displayed and thick fluids of assorted colors sloshed around in glass vials that the tubes were attached to. This was her fate: she was to be deliquesced. A horrible punishment for enhanced beings deemed defective or too disruptive to retain. Their remains would be used in other genetic experiments, making them more useful in death than they had been when alive. Apparently, the new officer was more heartless than Grimms. At least Grimms would’ve let them have a chance to explain.
Xand closed her eyes anticipating the sharp pinch of the needles. Her thoughts turned to her friend Grey and she wondered if this is what had become of him. Had he been liquified, turned into a genetic soup to further the R&D department’s quest for the perfect being? Tears began streaming down her face as she recalled her life and all that she had done for a country that hated her existence. She was born with no purpose of her own and when she finally stood up for her honor and for her friends, she was sentenced to die in the worst way imaginable. As the weight of her meaningless life hit her full force in her final moments and she braced herself for the end, the heavy door swung open once more and she found herself freed from the chair, falling on the floor as the shock left her with little strength left in her body. Xand looked up through tear-filled eyes to see a blurry figure in white. Regaining her composure, she noticed the bright white clothing of the Royal General’s outfit. The gold stars and various medals indicated that he was a high ranking and very respected member of the Queen’s Guard.
“On your feet,” the General said sternly, “Glad I made it in time so that I can inform you of your new assignment.”
“A-Assignment…?” Xand choked out, not fully understanding what was going on.
“Yes, all GEO’s have been ordered to depart the barracks and head for duty in the Outskirts. After you learn the details of your mission, you will gather your things and leave at once.”
“But…why?” Xand asked. The Outskirts were rumored to be a desolate place that housed the refuse that no one wanted. The locals were also said to be extremely hostile and primitive. When the rebellion started twenty years ago, nobody saw them as a threat. They were nothing more than a nuisance, or so it seemed. Xand had seen firsthand their cruelty and cunning. Alpha team barely survived the three days and nights they spent in the cemetery. The smell of death, the charred bodies and dismembered remains of Delta team would haunt her forever.
“Once you give your report, you and your team will be sent on your way. You have no idea just how important this is. If we succeed, it could change everything.”
The general led her down the long, dark hallway towards a large steel door. The silent guard who had been following closely behind them scurried forth towards an access panel, and by pressing a sequence of buttons, opened the door. The bright light seared her retinas as she was guided towards a small building. As the door opened, Xand hoped to be greeted by familiar faces, but there were none. Instead she was promptly placed before a panel of six individuals who’s faces were hidden behind white masks; these were members of the Council and they served as a bureaucracy separate from the Queen. Xand couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of dread as she stood before these powerful individuals.
A man spoke, “State your identity.”
“Xand, sir.” Xand replied, trying to sound as respectful as possible.
“We do not recognize that as your identity,” the man said with slight irritation.
“GEO: Zero Two Five,” Xand repressed a sigh as she was forced to remember that GEO’s were recognized by numbers not names.
“Your title,” He barked.
“Mercenary Captain of Alpha squad in service of Her Majesty,” Xand tried to keep her composure as her restlessness began to rise and the feeling of hopelessness settled over her once more.
“Captain Zero Two Five,” a woman now spoke with a firm, cold voice, “Our attention has been drawn by the occurrence at Silver Lining. We have come to hear your report and to inform you of your mission. You should have been told some information from General Vale, correct?”
“That is correct.”
“Good, now begin.”
Xand gave her report in detail, outlining the vicious tactics used by their assailants. The council members sat in silence; their eyes boring into her as if they were able to see through to her very soul. Xand described the myriad of traps they had employed and the use of advanced weapons that she had never seen before including several tanks that seamlessly blended into the environment. At this news, the council members began to murmur amongst themselves. Xand wished she could see their faces, but she could feel the tension increase in the room.
“We have heard all that we need, Zero Two Five,” the man from before said, “As you know, the situation is dire. A rebellion that was supposed to have been squashed in mere days has turned into a twenty-year skirmish that seems to be escalating as time goes on. Enhanced beings have been great tools in keeping these pests from gaining ground, but the rebels are impudent, and many citizens fear that it is only a matter of time before we are at all-out war. With tensions high across our borders and murmurings of possible interferences from other nations, we must prove to our people and the surrounding kingdoms, that we have this situation under control. That is why we have decided that enhanced beings no longer serve a purpose among the Royal Army and the Royal Guard. Your new purpose is keeping down the rebellion; you will no longer defend the walls but pursue our aggressors and destroy them!”
Other council members nodded their agreement and shortly after, Xand was hastily ushered out without being able to ask any questions.
“Understand your place in all of this,” General Vale said, sounding excited. “If you succeed, it could prove positive for your futures. It could finally establish you as creatures of immense value instead of just a means to an end. Wouldn’t you like that?”
Xand rolled her eyes as she walked behind the General as they made their way to her residence within the compound.
“Collect your things as quickly as possible. The other members have already been assembled in the garage and are waiting on you. Take only what’s necessary to your survival.” He handed her a tiny bag and walked off. Xand opened the door to her small room. There wasn’t much she needed to take because they weren’t allowed many personal possessions other than clothes and a few small sentimental trinkets. She looked around the minute space and headed towards her closet to gather as many clothes as she could fit in the sack. As she made her way past her bed, something shiny sparkled in her peripheral vision. She turned slowly to find a silver looking item sticking out from behind the headboard of her bed.
Xand was instantly drawn to the unfamiliar object. She walked over to the end of the bed and pulled it towards her. The shiny thing fell from its placement with a distinct thud as it hit the carpet. She ran over to it and to her amazement, it was a weapon: a five-foot-long sword with weird markings and a chillingly lifelike skull placed where the sword and hilt connected. The skull had large ruby eyes that seemed to glow otherworldly in the dim light. Upon further inspection she found a note on a torn off, crumpled piece of paper that looked like it had been written in a hurry. The letters were almost illegible, but the handwriting was familiar, and she could barely make out the words ‘To you who never dies.’ It was Grimms’ handwriting! Astonished and confused, she looked back at the large weapon wondering just how she was going to take this out of her room without issue. Well, she thought, Vale did say take things necessary to survival, and a weapon would definitely be necessary. But how useful would a sword be in a fight that usually involved guns? The handwriting bothered her a bit though; why would he want to help her? Could Grimms have really given her this object? Was it an attempt to get her killed by the guards…or was something else going on?
Xand decided to trust her gut and take the sword. It was shocking how lightweight it was considering the loud noise it made when it had hit the floor. She realized she was wasting time admiring the primitive object and without thinking, stashed it in her tiny satchel. Xand realized what she had done, and she was filled with dread as she expected her bag to be torn in half by her stupidity. But as she looked back, the bag was still intact, and the sword had vanished inside. Maybe this weapon wasn’t so primitive after all; she decided it must be some new kind of technology from R&D—possibly a prototype they wanted field tested. She thought nothing more about the strange sword as she rushed to the garage to meet her comrades.