Darius walked erratically down the street, his eyes completely exposed, emanating danger and hoping for trouble. Most ignored him, some propositioned him, others hurled epithets to which he replied laconically, “fuck you.”
He lit a cigarette and approached a group of men standing under a doorway, they wore parkas just like the men from the other night. Tonight, Darius was not armed. He grabbed one of the men by the back of the neck and flung him into the middle of the road, he bellowed and screamed as he bounced off the asphalt like a rag-doll. Darius gestured with his hands for the others to throw a punch. He was absolutely terrified.
“What the fuck?” one of them whispered.
“Don’t know, Tyrell, but Christmas has come early.”
The last speaker produced a super-charged tazer, which would deliver a powerful bolt that would only temporarily incapacitate Darius.
A flash of blue. Systems off-line.
He was Julian again. He was in an anesthetic paralysis. Intense white light from above nearly blinded him, but he could make out a silhouetted figure standing above him, running a cold scalpel down his chest.
Now he sat behind a computer monitor, sweating and nervous. Just place this sum into this account here. No big deal. No-one will notice.
Another fragment of time; men with parkas surrounded him as he trembled and swung a smoking gun barrel around threateningly.
“WHERE IS SHE!?”
Impact. He was taken from behind.
A more pleasant scene. He sat on the sand and watched the waves roll and water lap against the shore. He picked up a large red crab and toyed with it, dangling it above Isabelle mock-threateningly. She frowned and splashed at a pool of water, which splattered on him. She laughed.
The familiar swirl of colours appeared as Darius’ systems came back online. The intense white light from the dream shone above him. Winston Corrigan stood over him, looking irate.
“Jesus Christ, what is wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with you? Goddamn sociopathic fuck.”
Winston shook his head and puffed on his electronic cigarette feverishly.
“I wanted nothing more to do with you tonight. But there’s no turning back from this. I’m going to take you apart, piece by piece, and sell them overseas. I guess I get to resell that heart too. Took a bit of a pounding from the shock but it’s still ticking.”
“It’s Julian Armitage’s, yes?”
Winston nodded yes.
“How do you know? Little punk was skimming funds. He paid his debt, and then some.”
Winston used a remote to raise Darius’ table to a vertical position and turned it around so that it faced a large clear container. He felt like he was choking on imaginary vomit. Inside the stew of nutrient fluid, wrapped in a jungle of tubes and loose intestines, was a withered, eviscerated creature. It blinked.
“The reality of this operation, where you get your much-prized organs, is not so pretty, eh?” At that he seemed to show some regret himself. “You’ve got to be ruthless to survive these days, Darius, I’m sure you figured that out yourself a long time ago.”
“Isabelle?” Darius asked wanly, fighting just to utter the syllables from a mouth paralytic from shock.
Winston picked up a silver container and held it in front of Darius. “He wasn’t going to pay his debts by himself. Mind you, you were due some kidneys on next shipment. You wouldn’t have had far to look for Isabelle.”
His world shattered. Second-hand grief and horror boiled inside of him, tearing him apart. He felt rage, the worst he had ever felt. He jerked violently.
“Don’t give me that. You’ve done things I’m sure you’re not proud of. It’s because you did those things that we’re here. I blame you, personally. You put me here, and people like you created the demand. I don’t like it, but I move on. I’ve got family to take care of, and a lot of employees.”
His watch chimed, he answered it. “Got a problem up here, boss.”
“Just a minute,” he eyed Darius and before leaving simply said, “be right back.”
After he left, Darius took some time to wallow in the collective despair he felt with Julian, whose blank eyes stared at him.
“I didn’t know… I didn’t know,” he whispered as he began tugging at his restraints. He tugged and tugged and screamed until his powerful arms tore the table apart. In a mindless rage he ascended the staircase and hammered on a securely locked door. He thumped and kicked and then halted when a strange sound caught his attention. Hisses began to permeate the air. Then gunshots and screams. What the hell?
The door rolled open and Winston scrambled in, tumbling down the stairs and landing on his back. He drew a weapon and trained it on Darius, his eyes bloodshot and popping with fear.
Darius felt like one monster facing down another but knew that perhaps he was the lesser evil, the care-free bastard ignorant of the consequences of his actions. The other a ruthless, calculating beast justifying his actions with necessity. He leapt into the air and landed with the full force of his heavy frame on Winston, who left out a gasp and whose hand jerked once, triggering a stray gunshot.
Darius smiled. Then a shiver ran down his spine; a brief feeling of catharsis followed by a choking sense of self-disgust.
“The Flack Cannon back in service?” a familiar voice called out. Darius turned around and greeted Cole, who held a laser rifle and was dressed in grey camouflaged pants and body-armour.
“You could say that,” he said tersely.
Cole lowered his weapon and descended the stairs, grimacing as he took in the macabre detail of the room.
“Some shop of horrors in here, this is grim.”
“I know. How did you find me?”
“Hacked your eyes. Sub-dermal implant gave me your GPS location too when you went offline,” he said cautiously, with an expression like a pet that had been caught doing something wrong.
The idea of being monitored perpetually, having his every waking moment observed, horrified Darius, but it was a lesser concern right now.
“We need to discuss that later, all of this, in fact. I’m torn.”
Cole ambled over to Julian’s vat, stepping over Winston’s corpse.
“Christ. What about this guy? Can we fix him?”
“We can to an extent. It would be a grim existence, and not what he would want,” Darius replied bitterly. It was true, he knew enough through his link with this man to know that all he wanted now was to simply end everything. Darius would carry Julian’s burden, and his own, going forward.
“Burn this fucking place to the ground.”
“I guess some things never change, huh?”
Darius paused for a moment. “No… I suppose not.”
Cole began to make his way out before Darius grabbed his shoulder to stop him.
“One thing first; I want a manifest of the shipping destinations of everything that left this lab, remaining organs sent back to HQ and a DNA analysis run on all of them.”
Cole looked bemused but he acknowledged the request and departed. Darius walked over to Julian’s vat and pressed his hand against the cold glass. He wasn’t prepared to let go of Julian’s quest. Ideas were churning in his head. Was Winston lying? Was she definitely dead? Even if she was, would death really be the end?
He would make it his life’s mission to see Isabelle again, some way, somehow.