Catalyst: IX

"By grafting, we have been able to create incredible hybrid fruits and vegetables. Take the branch of one subject, and graft it into the branch of another. Two things with different traits combined to make something new. Through selective breeding, we have been able to produce superior livestock. If the data in the double helix can be read, it can be interpreted, if it can be interpreted, it must be written. If it is written, why shouldn't it be rewritten?" ~The Memoirs of Doctor Earnest P. Mallory

“By grafting, we have been able to create incredible hybrid fruits and vegetables. Take the branch of one subject, and graft it into the branch of another. Two things with different traits combined to make something new. If the data in the double helix can be read, it can be interpreted, if it can be interpreted, it must be written. If it is written, why shouldn’t it be rewritten? Why shouldn’t we write it ourselves all together? “ ~The Memoirs of Doctor Earnest P. Mallory

A horrible grating sound echoed through the cargo hold of the small trench probe as we bumped against the side of the rusty airlock doorway. The force of the impact sent me tumbling across the floor toward the young man. He caught me with surprisingly strong hands, and steadied me as the probe resettled.

“Thanks.” I was sincere, as I returned to my side of the hold.

“My name. My name is Cody.” he said calmly.

“I thought we weren’t doing names – Cody.” I responded.

“I’ve decided it doesn’t matter, Jim. Just now. I just now decided, Jim. Say what you want. I’ll listen. Ask me questions. I’ll do my best – though I doubt we have any time left.” He paused. “It’s over for me, Harbinger. I’m done. . . You know, they say it was your fault – all of this. They say the Harbingers are responsible for the descent. Tried to bury us in the sea. That may be true, but as I look at the mess we’ve made of things, it seems like we probably deserved it. I’d ask you about it, but you’ll just say you don’t remember.”

“I don’t.” I lied.

“Yeah. I know.” he let out a short snort, indicating his resigned sarcasm. “Maybe that’s true. Maybe you all woke up on the ocean floor with us, and everything’s been wiped. How nice for you. But maybe it’s not true, and you sent the whole lot of us packing to the deep to die. I’d say I blame you, but the way I see it, monsters gotta be buried. And the only thing more monstrous than what the Harbingers created are the Harbingers themselves. You made us didn’t you?”

“I don’t remember.” I lied.

“Right. Well it doesn’t matter. You’ve damned yourselves right along with the rest of us. So congratulations. Maybe there’s a shred of redemption for you after all.” He looked away and began humming. There was a slight jolt as the probe locked into place in the airlock. There was a rushing and draining sound coming from outside of the probe as the airlock began to empty itself and pump in breathable oxygen. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, it was me who made you fall. Mirror, mirror can’t you see, you have got a hold on me?” He took a deep breath before adding softly, “Not anymore.”

The door to the hold shuddered with a loud ‘clack’, as it was jarred loose from the other side. It groaned open on rusty hinges, light from the cabin spilling into the hold. The silhouetted figure of one of our captors stood in the doorway, clearly armed with some sort of crude pistol in his right hand.

“Get up.” it was the voice of the second man, not Max. I stood up slowly, but Cody remained in his corner, hugging his knees and humming softly – as if he didn’t hear the order. “You deaf, boy? On your feet!” Cody stopped humming. Licked his lips, and then turned his head looking at the man in the doorway.

“Alright.” his response was quiet, yet somehow full of defiance. He pulled himself up, and stood squarely in front of the man in the doorway. “I’m up.”

The man took a step back into the cabin to make a space large enough to pass by him. He motioned with his weapon that we were to pass in front of him through the door. Cody began to walk through the door. I could hear him say quietly, “See you, Jim.”

With one fluid motion, Cody gripped the gun in the man’s hand and yanked the barrel up towards himself. He cocked his head back and pressed the barrel up into his neck behind his etched chin. The shot must have been loud in such a small space, but I really only heard a short ‘pop’ before my ears began to painfully ring. It felt as though my ears were bleeding – my head exploding in extreme pain. I felt a spray of hot blood fall across me as Cody’s body fell to it’s knees, his arms flopping down limp at his sides. The whole thing took our captor off guard, and he stumbled back, dropping the gun. I lunged forward and grabbed it. It felt heavy in my hand. I later realized it was just a dense pipe bolted down onto a crude piece of wood with a bolt and trigger mechanism awkwardly attached to the pipe. A small magazine fed the pipe with ammunition from below. As I pulled the spring-loaded bolt back with my left hand, it ejected an empty cartridge and chambered the next round. I simultaneously trained the weapon on the man, and let go of the bolt. The man began to rush towards me as I squeezed the trigger.

The second shot was just as loud, but didn’t effect me as much – probably because I knew it was coming. Still, it was painful, and I knew I would have a horrid headache for some time after. The man received the projectile square between the eyes, pulling him through the air by the head to the control panel at the front of the cabin, and dropping his twitching body over the dials and levers. I stood a moment in shock over the whole nightmare, before I heard a raging scream from outside of the open docking bay door to my right.

“What the hell!?” Max’s voice was explosive and angry, and I knew he would be at the door in less than a moment. I summoned all the stamina I could muster, and rushed through the door out onto the platform. The whole airlock was just large enough to house the small trench probe and this platform with a door on the opposite end leading into whichever building we had traveled to. To my right I saw Max barreling toward me full tilt. I started running towards the entrance to the building with all I was worth. Luckily, the platform was still wet, and Max tripped and fell into some oil drums just before reaching me. He was back up fast, though, so I rushed through the door. I turned around  in time to slam the door closed on Max – trapping him in the airlock. I immediately began spinning the wheel to seal the door. I could hear thumps against the door from the other side as he banged his fists against the steel surface – demanding I open the door, presumably. The door clicked – indicating the airlock was now sealed.

I began to hear him struggling with the mechanism from the other side. I frantically looked around the door for a locking mechanism, but found none. He was trying to open the door! To my left I noticed the airlock vent and flood lever. It was my only option to stop Max. Surely the water pressure would prevent the door from opening. Surely they would have designed the door to the building to lock once it started flooding.

I grabbed the lever and let my body weight drop as I hung on it, pulling down as I did so. The lever gave, and sunk into the ‘flood’ position. I heard a grating sound, and then the rushing of water. Maybe if Max was lucky, he may be able to get to the trench probe in time and close the door. Maybe he would drown. But either way, I had saved myself. On my knees with my arms still above me holding the lever, I stared ahead at the wall watching little droplets drip inches away from my nose. Behind me I heard the sound of someone clapping slowly.

I turned around to be greeted by a tall woman wrapped in faded red robes standing between 4 armed thugs with guns trained on me. A broad-brimmed slouch hat covered her face in shadows. Her gloved hands were echoing through the corridor with each clap. She walked towards me, heeled boots clicking on the tiled floor below us.

“Well, well, well. A Harbinger, I presume?” her voice was rich and uncomfortably pleasant. She crouched to my level, the brim of her hat raised just enough to reveal two extremely thin, bright-red lips curving into a crooked smile. “So Max and Larry, huh? You were the ‘Big Surprise,’ huh? Thanks for killing them off for me, sweetheart. I would have had to reward them, and I hate giving away my things.” She extended a gloved hand toward me.

“Welcome to Laurentia, Baby.”

~j.d.schofield

 

 

 

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