A Game of Keys, Stage 2 – ch. V

I am one of DowersBioTechs’s experiments. Those were the words that the boy in front of me had spoken. I did not know how to react to it, and remained speechless. DowersBioTechs? Biotechnology? What was I supposed to think of that? Could such a thing even be real?

I hesitated to speak, but knew I could not keep silent on this matter. “Y-you’re…” I started to stutter. I was unable to finish that sentence.

The boy smirked coldly. “Technically, I’m the second clone of your stepbrother Cuán,” he explained. “The first clone died when the scientists tried to install the hardware in him through surgery.”

“Hardware?” I had a difficult time comprehending what was going on.

“Yes, I am also a cyborg.”

When had this horror flick turned into a science fiction?

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This was overwhelming my mind, but wasn’t that exactly what this thing had aimed for from the start? To confuse me, to throw me off guard, he had done that many times before in order to control me.

“That’s why you know everything about me…” I muttered.

In this moment, I decided to give up on comprehending how this boy – thing – could be a cyborg-clone and instead accepted it as natural fact. Not everything in this world could be understood, some things were meant to stay mysteries. It was better instead to cope with whatever was being thrown into my face. Adaptation was key to survival.

The cyborg-clone pushed a bit of his hair aside to reveal some sort of hole in his neck. “I plug myself onto a computer with this portal,” he continued his explanation, “I make contact with a network, and from there on, I can hack anything and everything I desire. This includes all the camera’s that you’ve installed in both your parental house and your own apartment.”

The thing turned around to face me. “I gave you clues, didn’t I?” he said to me. “I yanked your hair when you said you hated technologies, and I told you before: ‘I cannot sin.’ After all, how can that which is man made sin, when sin fell on God’s creations?”

I froze when I heard that. Then…

… that meant…

… he really never lied to me?

“When you said that you had never been a Christian…”

“I have lived all my life in a tube.”

“You mentioned that you wanted money – riches,” I prodded. He had to have lied at one point, didn’t he? There was no way he could have spoken truth alone. Fervently, I prayed that he had lied at least once, that he had not in every instant been telling the insane and utterly unreal truth to me, because otherwise…

The answer he gave me, however, was positive. “Of course, I need that money too,” he said, “and I will have it.”

I bit my bottom lip, almost afraid of my next question. “Is the real Cuán watching this?”

“Yes.”

I swallowed thickly.

Somehow, the fact that my brother had been watching me being given head by this thing was even worse than if it had been Cuán himself doing it. It didn’t make much sense, but the sick feeling that I had just cheated on the one who mattered most to me, was sinking into my stomach, and I felt that the title of the worst scum on earth, which I had previously bestowed upon myself, was too good for me now.

“Where is he?” Reduced to nothing, my voice was barely above a whisper now, yet I still needed to know.

The thing grinned silently, but did not speak. Instead he slowly walked up to me, like a predator cornering its prey, and when he reached me he twirled me around so that I was facing the control panel again. Leaning in, he whispered, “Watch…” into my ears.

He selected a few icons and menus, dropping another dozen of holographic keys into the basket. “These are on the house,” he said, as if trying to console me, but he only made me feel worse. Another window popped up, which said:

 

PLEASE SPEAK THE FIRST CODE.

 

Without warning, the thing recited the poem, the one that had been written on the wallpaper: “Five each – to breach – out. One key. I am free.”

The window reported to us:

 

CODE ACCEPTED.

 

The thing smiled. “Voice recognition,” he told me, leaning into me and speaking in conspiratorial tones as if I were his closest confident.

A new window popped up:

 

PLEASE SPEAK THE SECOND CODE.

 

Then, he turned to me and asked with a mocking tone, “What do you think ‘five’ means?”

I narrowed my eyes. It could be anything. “I already tried birthdays,” I said, almost conversationally, but it was quite obvious that I was nudging him for hints.

“What about given names?” he suggested with a smile.

I looked at him suspiciously, but decided to go along with the suggestion. Five names. I made a quick deduction. That probably meant us, five brothers – minus Cuán. I took a deep breath, then said, “Cillian, Carrol, Cian, Colmán, Connor.” For a moment, I thought nothing would happen. Then, the window announced to us:

 

CODE ACCEPTED.

 

Suddenly another hologram popped up, the concentrated light filling the space and giving me a clear image so realistic that I could almost touch it. The image made my heart drop to my stomach. It was Cuán who had appeared. His bright eyes, always intensely burning, were staring right into my own.

Before this moment, I had thought that I did not want to see my brother’s eyes again, that I could not possibly bear to see the disgust that I would surely witness in them. Now, this all mattered little to me. It all seemed trivial compared to what I saw.

The hologram was projecting my brother, completely naked, and with his hands and feet bound. He was crying out to me. Begging for my help: –

“Connor! Save me!”

***

The voice of my brother tore through my heart.

Cuán cried out helplessly to me from the bed that he was tied to, struggling with the ropes that bound his hands and feet together. His efforts were futile. “Please, Connor!” he begged, “Don’t believe anything that bastard says to you! That freak is not me!”

“Cuán…?” I whispered. My body trembled, completely shocked.

A cold feeling came over me, as my mind tried to process the situation my brother was in. He, too, was victim to this thing. He was crying, calling out to me. He needed me. My hands instinctively clenched into tight fists. I bit my bottom lip, piercing the skin, and breathed harshly, tasting the metallic tang of my own blood as it trickled into my mouth.

“Damn you!”

I shot up from my chair and tried to turn and reach the clone, but I remembered too late that my legs were still bound to the chair. As I turned, my balance left me, and I fell to the floor, the chair crashing down with me.

“Goddamn you! Why my brother! What do you want from him!” I cried out in pure rage. “Curse you!” He had gone too far. I swore in this moment, that I – when I managed to free myself – and –by God!– I would – that I would murder this fucker for what he had done to Cuán.

The clone merely gave me a bored look, but he answered me nonetheless, “I told you, didn’t I? I want money. I need it to buy the things that will make you happy. Once I take over your stepbrother’s place, I will inherit the money from your father.”

“I will never allow you to do that!” I growled.

“Be that as it may,” he said, “your father has the last word in this matter.”

“Don’t talk about my father, damn it!”

I cursed him in my mind. How dare he! How dare he try to pull my father into this!

“If you know what’s good for you,” I threatened, “then don’t touch my father.” I glared at him, but for all my efforts to intimidate, I only seemed to manage to make him chuckle in amusement. “What’s so funny, you fucker!” I demanded.

He laughed at that. “Your father,” he said, and suddenly there was a wicked gleam in his eyes, “He is responsible for me. He wants me to – !”

Deafening.

A sudden explosion and C2 was no more. His blood and intestines were splattered across the entire room, while pieces of something that was once hardware were scattered over the floor, still melting, making black burned spots on the laminate.

The computer made a beeping sound and then an artificial sounding voice said: “Access granted.”

In a swift sliding movement, the mirrored wall automatically opened to reveal Cuán bound inside. The walls must have been soundproof, I noted. Cursing softly, I worked fastidiously to unbind myself from the chair I was stuck to, and when I could move about freely, I pulled up my pants and ran over to my little brother.

“Cuán!” I cried out. I pulled him up and pressed him against me in a tight protective hug. Thank God he was alright! I lowered my head and dropped a kiss on his crown. “God,” I said, “I – you – what the hell happened!”

The boy pressed himself deeper into my chest. “I don’t know,” he sniffed. “I woke up and I was here. And I saw you and that… that…”

“I should have known that it wasn’t you,” I growled, berating myself. “You’re nothing like that.”

I sighed and looked around. We were still stuck here, and I had no idea how to get out of this place. I pulled Cuán a bit away from me and started to untie his hands and feet. All the while, my mind tried to process what was going on. Why did that clone suddenly explode?

“It’s as if someone tried to stop him from saying too much,” I heard Cuán say.

“What?” I looked up at him, having finally untied his feet. “What do you mean?”

Cuán shrugged in frustration. “You’re a film fanatic too, right!” he snapped. “You should know how it goes in the movies.” He jerked a hand up, rubbing roughly at his eyes to dry his tears. “Think about it. Just when he was about to reveal something important, he explodes!”

My brows creased in a frown, as I thought about it. Cuán was right, the clone had said something about father being involved somehow before he suddenly exploded.

I stopped my train of thoughts regarding the suspicious circumstances in which the clone had died. Something more disturbing made itself present in my mind, a thought that I did not want to have, but that nonetheless came to me anyway.

Cuán was right?

In a moment of panic, I dashed over to Cuán and pushed him back onto the bed.

“What the hell!” I heard my so-called brother yell, but I ignored him as I moved to check every inch of his body, starting by his earlobe, which was adorned with a tiny diamond, then over to his neck where no hole could be found, and then the rest of his body.

Despite the new glasses given to me, I still had a hard time seeing the smaller details in the dark, but so far, I had detected nothing out of the ordinary. I felt a great sense of relief wash over me at that.

The boy roughly pushed me off of him, then proceeded to glare at me indignantly with his heated gaze. That brought a smile onto my face. That glare was definitely Cuán’s glare, he always looked at me like that when he was mad. And with that single look, the last lingering suspicions vanished from even the farthest corners of my mind.

“You’re really you,” I said, convinced of the fact that he was my brother. He huffed in exasperation.

“Of course, I’m – !” He cut himself off when the reason why I needed to examine his body finally seemed to dawn on him. “Oh… sorry,” he mumbled in embarrassment, but I simply shrugged it off.

“Don’t worry about that,” I assured him. I ignored the tingling feeling I felt developing in the pit of my stomach upon seeing his embarrassed countenance. “We have something else to think of.” Cuán blinked at me questioningly, and I explained, “That clone was talking about father. I don’t know why or how, but since that clone is a product of father’s company, then that means it has something to do with him.”

“Good thinking.”

Cuán and I both froze. That sound had come from the computer!

Quickly I scrambled onto my feet and rushed back to the control panel, with Cuán following closely behind me. From the hologram projector there came another image. Another Cuán was waving at us.

“Hello, I’m C1-prototype, the clone who supposedly died according to C2, and you just accessed stage three of the game. This is the final stage.”

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