Do remember, these excerpts are from my first draft, so expect lots of typos and a shaky style and way too much introspection. I'll fix that stuff the second time around. xD
Warning: Some of the content is rather graphic. And there's some strong language. You have been warned!
From The Bombardiers, Chapter 4--
His eyes fell back on the woman in front of him. She definitely wasn’t the one who’d saved him, so that meant this operation was run by more than person? An organization of some sort? And if this was some kind of group effort, then what were its goals? A coup? Simply getting the truth out? Was that what Xi was? Some kind of revolutionary group that new the truth? He could have speculated about it all day.
“You know, you could just stare at me forever, or you could actually ask me whatever you’re thinking about.”
Or, there was that.
“Oh, um, sorry. I just…I don’t play well with others usually. It’s not about you, really. I just…”
“Can’t trust anyone?” The woman reseated herself. “I know the feeling, though I don’t guess I’m as familiar with it as you.”
Ganth stiffened. “And what do you know about me?”
The woman frowned, her eyes filling with pity. “Only what Xi told me. Your parents were erased when you were eleven, right? But you didn’t have you memories of them changed like you were supposed to. Xi said your health chip…well, it’s not actually a health chip, obviously, is defective, but no one ever caught on to it, so you stayed under the radar this whole time.” She smiled sardonically. “Until last night, I guess. But it just happens that way, doesn’t it? One second you’re going about your daily routine, and the next moment the black van pulls up to take you away.”
“You too, huh?” So that did happen to everyone.
“Yep. Xi says that’s how they do it. That that’s how they’ve always done it. The AJA is split into two divisions. A virtual army of men who go around and kidnap designated targets and another that works tirelessly to erase or alter the memories of everyone involved with that person.” She wrung her hands.
Ganth eyed the woman carefully. She didn’t exactly look like a big time crime boss, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to test her feelings. She looked like she was about to fall apart right in front of him.
“You want to know what I did, right?”
And yet, she was incredibly perceptive, all the same.
“I’m guessing it wasn’t something that would normally be considered a crime?”
The woman snorted. “Actually, it’s kind of funny. It was a crime, but it wasn’t intentional. Sat down at a desk I was told to sit down at, put on a flash visor I was supposed to put on…ended up overhearing two of the Prime Executives talking about Xi.”
Ganth cringed. “I…” He coughed. “I’m sorry.”
The woman smiled bitterly. “Yeah, me too.” A second later she was up and about, her movements fast and jerky. She picked up a tray of food and brought it over to the bed. “So, um, I fixed you some soup and stuff. Xi said you should probably keep the food light until she wanes you off the meds. Got you on some pretty strong ones, I guess. It took about twelve hours for her to put you back together again. You were in pretty bad shape.”
Ganth nodded absently. “So, who is this Xi exactly?”
The woman raised an eyebrow, as if it was stupidest question in the world. “Didn’t you see her? I mean, she said you were awake when she picked you up.”
“So, the other woman is Xi? The one with the twisted sense of humor?”
The woman bit back a laugh. “That’s all you got out of your first encounter with Xi?”
“Well, I was in pieces and paralyzed at the time.”
“So was I.”
Ganth couldn’t think of a reply to that.
“Anyway,” the woman swiftly changed the subject, “I haven’t told you my name yet, right?”
He shook his head.
“Well, I’m Sara. Sara Miller. Not very interesting, I’m afraid. And Xi said you go by Ganth?”
Ganth frowned thoughtfully. “Well, yes, I do, but I why you keep saying that?”
“Saying what?” She wrung her hands again.
“Oh…that…” A light blush came over her cheeks. “Well, that’s just because I’m never sure if Xi is actually telling the me the truth or just trying to screw with me.”
Ganth stared into his soup. “Oh.”
“Honeys, I’m home!” The words echoed through the house, and Ganth jumped, grimacing as another wave of pain rolled down his torso.
“Oh, joy, the happy parade is back.” Sara mumbled.
A fridge door slammed shut somewhere. “I heard that, Miss Sara Miller! And I will have you know I hate parades!”
Ganth looked on in disbelief. “Don’t tell me that’s…”
She appeared in the doorway. “Mr. Richard Ganth! How nice of you to joy us in the living world again! I was almost afraid we were going to lose you. Almost afraid because I’m never certainly afraid of anything at all, of course. Anyway, how’re your toes feelings? I had to reattach quite a few.”
Correction: Xi appeared in the doorway.
From The Bombardiers, Chapter 6--
Xi didn’t move. She let Sara’s absolute horror sink in for a few more seconds, and even when Sara lunged at her, throwing the hardest (yet so weak) punch she could at Xi’s face, Xi didn’t even twitch. A few seconds later, Sara cracked, and she sank to her knees, sobbing. “Why are you doing this? That woman is getting raped! People are getting killed! Why won’t you do anything?”
“This isn’t my fault, Sara Miller. In fact, if you had things your way, this would be reality for Altea every day.”
“W...what?” She gazed up at Xi. “This isn’t…this isn’t what I…” Her words died on her lips. And she understood.
Xi hadn’t just disrupted the erasure program. She’d also utilized it. To implant the knowledge of it into the minds of every single Altean citizen.
And this was the result.
Absolute and utter chaos. The complete breakdown of society in the span of minutes. In a second, all of Altea had learned of the Executive’s lie, all of Altea had learned it had been living false lives, all of Altea had seen the nation for what it was. And all of Altea was enraged. The crime that happened normally and was covered up had been far overshadowed by the senseless rage of millions of people. Without the experience of crime in their memories, they didn’t know how to handle the information. Alteans did not lobby for change. There were no social issues. Alteans did not look to policemen for safety and guidance. There was no crime. Alteans did not lock their doors and hide nor did they ban together for a common cause. Those were reactions to revolution, and there was no revolution in Altea.
It had probably started with one or two or three, Ganth imagined. A few people witnessing a few crimes and realizing that the doubts they suddenly found themselves having about the Executives and AJA were, in fact, truth. Then came the horror of that one or those two or those three. And from them, it multiplied. It increased exponentially, a wave of irrationality and paranoia and horror and angry that had quickly morphed into complete social collapse.
And where was the isolation to slow it down?
Altea was an artificial island. The furthest town from the capital was a half an hour away by train. This wave of unadulterated chaos had spread across the nation like a wildfire, devouring all hopes and securities in its path in the span of minutes. And then, there was no Altea. There was just this.
And if the erasure program had become public knowledge this way, suddenly and abruptly and to everyone at once, this is exactly what would happen.
And every death, every rape, every theft, every horror…
This was to teach Sara a lesson.
Because Sara had dared to ask “Why not tell them?”
And this was Xi’s example of a hard, cold lesson that taught that answer in the most direct way possible.
Ganth closed his eyes and bit his bottom lip. Today, he had learned something as well. He had known that something like this would happen if the erasure program became public, but he had not dared to imagine the sheer horror of it all. No, that wasn’t what he’d learned. Today, Richard Ganth had learned what kind of person Xi was.
Merciless. Cold. Unforgiving. And genius.
And that, quite possibly, made her the most dangerous person alive.
And it was through this thought that Ganth finally came to understand what Xi was actually doing. “Xi, you…”
This was not a game being played.
“Sweetie pie, they cost themselves this fight the day they made me what I am. And rest assured, I will not rest until I make sure they know it.”
This was a game that had already been played.
“Sara Miller!” Xi towered over her. “This is not what I want. I do not want absolute destruction of the people, merely their restructuring into something akin to a real society, with all its natural flaws. Altea is an artificial place, built upon lofty ideals that have been implemented. And that is the worst possible thing you can to with an ideal. An ideal should always be a unreachable goal. To institute one into practice is abhorrent. To utilize one in the way Altea has is the greatest sin any group of human beings has ever committed. And I intend to wipe clean this sin off the hands of those innocent people down there. And I will use the blood of its very perpetrators to do so. This, Sara Miller, is what would happen if everyone suddenly discovered the erasure. And do not mistake me. I am not claiming a similar event will not take place once the Executives fall. But it will not be this. It will not be this sudden release of all human fallacy and error. It will be hampered by pain and disappointment, fueled by sadness in place of undivided rage. And thus, it will retreat upon itself and lick its own wounds and heal with a nasty scar and move on, assimilating into the kind of society that it should have always existed in.”
This was a game that had already been won.
Sara, looking scarily close to passing out, muttered weakly, “But how do you know that?”
Xi’s only response was her too-wide wicked grin, the widening of her too-bright green eyes, and: “Because I’m Xi.”
And Xi was the victor.
From The Bombardiers, Chapter 9--
A low snicker sounded through his speaker. “Oh my, Norton Sater. You’ve either become much a braver or a much angrier person than you were since I last saw you. But, regardless of which, you are quite right. I’ve been watching your progress quite closely, and I must say, I’m impressed. Most of the AJA’s new hires end up erased themselves within a week, cracking under the stress, letting the big secret slip out to their families or friends. But you, with no friends and no family you want to talk to, you’ve managed to stay at least partially sane, eh?”
“Partially,” he repeated hollowly.
“Mhmm, but now you’re reaching your wit’s end, and you’ve finally realized that you have no one else to turn to but me. Isn't that right?” She chuckled again.
“Can you just get to the point? What is it you want me to do?” His voice started to strain.
“Actually, I want you to do exactly what you’ve been doing, at least for the time being. I suspect something is going to come up soon that requires my attention at the AJA, and I’d like to have someone on the inside to monitor the situation.”
He growled. “You mean you want me to keep going back to that place and killing people? Is that it?”
“Honey,” she drawled, “don’t be like that. You know yourself that blowing your cover at this point will gain you nothing. You’ve learned some stuff about the AJA, sure, but it’s nothing I don’t already know. Instead of complaining about it, just stay attentive.” She sighed. “Look, I didn’t contact you because I explicitly need you. I contacted you because you’re smart and because I knew you could make my job easier. I want to take the AJA down more than you do, honey, believe me. But this has to be done carefully and in steps. In order to dismantle them piece by piece and destroy any chance of their regime’s ideals ever relapsing in Altea again, they must be eradicated completely. And doing this messily, just going in guns blazing, is not the way to ensure that happens. Understand?”
Norton rested his head on the sofa cushion. “Yes,” he answered coldly, “I understand. But you do realize that I myself am one of them, and that everyday I go back there is another day I wrack up a higher body count?”
“Of course I know that, sweetie. But I also know that you can handle it where others can’t. Because your sense of justice trumps your sense of self-respect, doesn’t it, Norton Sater?” He could hear the arrogance seeping through the speaker, but he couldn’t deny her claims. She knew him. She’d studied him. Well.
“You could say that, sure. But let me make something clear to you. You are going to explain your plan in full to me. You are going to tell me everything I need to know. You will leave nothing out, do you understand me? If you deceive me in any way, so help me I will—”
“Yes, yes! Norton Sater. I would never lie to a comrade of mine. Ever. And as soon as this… situation develops that I expect to develop soon, I will fill you in on everything. Until then, just sit tight and keep yourself out of the spotlight. Clear?” The last word rolled silkily off her tongue. “Oh, and in case you were wondering, the AJA has yet to discover I removed your cameras. Quite lazy, they are. I’ve got their feeds jacked to show randomized videos of you doing incredibly mundane things. It’s quite amusing, actually. By the way, how’s your arm?”
He frowned. “Oh, you’ll follow me around at the AJA but not the hospital? That’s comforting.”
She giggled. “Well, gee, Norton Sater. If you’d like, I can follow your every move. But I was kind of impression that people enjoyed some sense of privacy.”
He snorted. “Right, because you know all about respecting privacy.”
“Ah, it appears I have met my match of wits. Very well, then, Norton Sater. The game is on. We will continue this enthralling discussion later. Until then, you know what to do, yes?”
“Keep calm. Lie low. Gather all the intel I can.”
“Exactly! See, now why can’t Miss Sara Miller be as cooperative as you?”
“Bye, bye, Norton! I’ll call you later, okay, sweetie pie?”
She hung up.
From The Bombardiers, Chapter 11--
Just like tossing a flash grenade.
Except flash grenades didn’t kill people.
He jammed his thumb down on the button, and the needle—all twelve centimeters of it—whisked up with a sickening squelch. He threw the thing as hard as he could, and it landed on the opposite side of the garage, shattering on impact. He searched desperately for any change in Sara’s state, but he saw none. Her usually expressive brown eyes were staring blankly at the ceiling, and her body made no movements except besides the automatic rise and fall of her chest.
“Damn it all. Just damn it all!”
The time came back to him then.
It had to have been more than ten minutes, right? So where was Xi? Was her big finale just the lockdown, or…?
A rumbling filled his ears as if on cue, and he shifted himself around the support beam, holding Sara close to his chest, and realigned his vision the with AJA Building just in time.
Just in time to watch a massive wall of flame blow out of the center floor.
And then the building exploded.
Floor after floor after floor, it went up in a magnificent plume of red and orange that illuminated the night with a glow so much more devious than the lockdown lights that he wondered idly how he could have ever thought they were dangerous. This was danger. This was death.
This was Xi.
There wasn’t a single person inside that building left alive. There was no way. There was nothing left of the building. There couldn’t have been. A frame of twisted metal was all that remained, and was quickly collapsing in the heat of the flames. Debris rained down from every angle, pieces of desks and chairs and shards of window glass and carpet and people’s body parts, charred beyond recognition. All those thousand dari flash screens, gone. All those erasure servers, gone. All their work stations, gone. All their arrogance and haughtiness and superiority…
The debris field burst into the tower, and Ganth flinched away from the heat and smoke and thick, choking particles. He pulled Sara closer against him. He needed to get out of here. Pulling himself to his haggard feet, he made his way toward the opposite end of the garage, trying to breathe in as little of the air as possible.
He could hear the sirens already, the beating of the blades of a legion of helicopters. There would be people soon, too, and he didn’t want to get caught up in that mess. He made his way quickly out the back and took off toward the residential street. Once he’d secured himself away in an alley, away from prying eyes, he waited.
Hopefully, for Xi.
Xi had gotten out of that building before it exploded, right? He hadn’t seen her, but she wouldn’t have just let herself get blown up. Would she? This wasn’t her end game. She was smarter than that. Unless… unless this hadn’t been her plan at all. What if Sara’s kidnapping had just been a ploy to off Xi? What if the AJA had actually been ahead of them? What if…? He closed his eyes and groaned in frustration.
“Damn it, Xi!”
“What did I do?”
Well, that's all for now, folks! Enjoyable, I hope? If you have any comments or concerns, please feel free to comment! ^_^