“Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.”
“What?” Jared’s eyes had fluttered open a moment before, but all he could see was a white light above him. He couldn’t move, but he had the sense that he wasn’t dead. At least he hoped he wasn’t dead. Certainly what he was hearing would be an odd way to welcome him to heaven. Though maybe the voice meant it as reassurance. Sorry, kid, but life wasn’t so great anyways. Here’s where the real party’s at. Still, he would think heaven would be a softer light than the blinding glare shining into his eyes.
“Having said so, John Berryman jumped off a bridge. I always wonder, had he lived until today, would he still think life was boring? Would the marvel and terror caused by people like you leave him with a sense of wonder or at least mild excitement? Or would he have found the tumultuous social upheaval now occurring just as boring as he found everything else?” The voice was low and gravelly. Jared guessed it was an old man by the tone, and his opinion grew stronger when he heard the man’s gruff laughter.
“Excuse me, where are my manners? Let me make this a little bit easier for you.” The lights dimmed and the table began to recline upwards. The light shut off and his eyes began to adjust. He could now see that he was right about the speaker’s age. He’s short. The speaker couldn’t be more than five feet, white hair strewn about wildly. He wore a white lab coat and his skin was pale and spotted. He had cold, grey eyes.
Jared saw the girl standing next to him and thought he might be dead after all.
“You! How? Half your head was gone. How could you survive that?!” he cried out in shock. Wait, no, a twin? Could it be an identical twin? That has odds of like, one in eighty or something, right? Or was that any twin? Whatever, it must be her twin, what the hell sort of ability could let someone survive their head being half blown off?
“Oh, she can’t talk. Or won’t, not with this body at least. The speaker we had for her was damaged on the bus. Fortunately, we’d already ordered her a higher quality one. So hopefully she can communicate in two or three days. I say hopefully because it’s been almost six months. The requisition process in this country is ridiculous. You can get weapons and manpower easily, but if you’re going to need a box of paper clips in the next year then you better get started on the paperwork. God help you if you need the paper clips for the paperwork.”
“This body?” Jared asked blankly. The old man’s smile broadened.
“Oh yes, she can clone her body and control the duplicate remotely. As you might have noticed, having her around for close contact encounters cuts down on our casualty rates dramatically. And now we have you! Maybe with two of you we can get rid of that ridiculous shoot ‘em first policy.”
“Yes, you!” the man said delightedly. His speech pattern and energy was like that of a man closer to Jared’s age than his own.
“What do you mean, me?” Jared asked, voice trembling slightly.
“Well, you will now be joining our glorious army!”
“And why would you want me in your glorious army?”
“Because you can heal.”
“I can’t heal,” Jared said with conviction. The old man appeared perplexed.
“Are you sure?” he asked. Jared thought about the six weeks he spent in a brace after falling down a flight of stairs a few months ago.
“Oh. Well, guess we don’t need you then,” the old man said sullenly. Before Jared could react, he took out a gun and pulled the trigger. Pain seared through Jared’s shoulder, worse than anything he’d experienced before.
“Fuuuuuck. Holy fuck. You shot me! What the fuck?”
“What the fuck, indeed. I was totally aiming for your head. I can’t believe how bad a shot I am. Seriously, I can’t hit a broad side of a barn on a sunny day from ten feet away. Oh well, that’s why I don’t do field work,” the old man said cheerfully with a shrug. He handed the gun over to the girl beside him. “May, be a dear and finish him off.”
May hesitated, but then she raised the gun and fired it. Jared was more prepared this time. He raised his arm in front of him. Pointless, he knew, but it was a defensive reflex. The bullet tore through his hand and into his throat, silencing his screams.
Oh God, I’m going to die. They kept me alive just to kill me? Why? Wait…why aren’t I dead already? His throat burned. Blood was bubbling up, gushing out onto the bed in front of him. Rivulets ran down his hand, now missing two fingers. He couldn’t breathe and his lungs were on fire, yet he wasn’t dead.
A moment later, he wished he was. This made the pain of the first bullet feel like a paper cut. Everything was on fire, lightning coursing through him, nerve endings scorching. What was his luck that they’d both be such crummy shots? A bullet through the brain would have hurt far less. It was just sadistic to let him die in agony like this.
“Really May? I know you’re annoyed about not being able to contribute to the conversation, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate to take it out on our guest here,” the old man said with a disapproving shake of his head. May smirked silently then looked down, gun returned to her side. Amusing, was it? All I can do is gurgle until I choke to death on my own blood and she finds it amusing? “Sorry about the fingers. Looks like the sedative wore off faster than I estimated it would. You shouldn’t have been able to move your arm for another ten minutes. But now this will be a more robust test than I expected.”
Jared’s focus was fading, but he dragged his attention to his captors and glared at them hatefully. He knew he didn’t have long, but if he was going to die anyways he might as well die putting up a fight. He put all of his will power into getting his legs to move. He curled his legs up underneath him. They were more sluggish than he’d like, probably due to the sedative they gave him. Or the lack of oxygen. Or maybe his anger just wasn’t quite enough to deal with the overwhelming pain and shock. But the old man was practically next to him.
Jared wanted to jump up and bring an axe kick down on the old guy’s collar bone. But it looked like he would have to settle for falling on him and hoping his bones were as brittle as most people’s his age. He hoped they assumed he was just curling up in agony. It wasn’t hard to give a convincing performance on that count. He put as much power as he could into his legs, launching himself at the man.
In a split second he was an inch away from the man, satisfied that his poor aim was about to lead him to head-butting the bastard, when a force caught him on the side of his head. No longer aimed at the man, he thudded down face first into the hard linoleum floor. Once again, the world went black.