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I’d never been close to my brother. Well, we were when we were small, I guess, but I can’t really remember that time, though he can. Perfect memory, you know? I know he spoke very early, and taught me to speak and communicate, made up a language of hand signs, expressions and silent communication for us to use, kept it simple and intuitive enough for me to understand. Our parents and doctors thought we were both brilliant at first, that I was just one of those “quiet babies” who is shy to show off my abilities. They didn’t know that most of my early milestones were inspired by my brother. Anyway, I was always just average around him, always working hard for average results, while he didn’t seem to worry about anything: breezing through school and social situations, making things and inventing stuff. You know that little clip everyone uses, the one to hold your phone on a table? Yeah, made that at 10 and patented by 11. Bunch of other stuff too, stuff you don’t even know has made your life cleaner, easier and better. He’s the guy who fixed the ice cream machines breaking down, and made bacteria to keep them clean and sterile, at 17. We were friends, until late elementary school. Then his genius was undeniable, and he was put in the advanced classes, then that special school, and soon college and graduate school, all more than a decade ahead of usual, even for smart people. We moved a few times because of his school, him not being old enough to live alone, even if he was emancipated by 15. Our parents planned our lives around his education, but I didn’t mind, it was cool to move to different cities and countries, and no one really compared me to him, despite what you might think. How do you compare a combustion engine to a fission reactor? It wouldn’t be fair! I think he was even smarter before, when we were kids, but he wanted to stay with me, help me. We were close once after all. He’d make grand designs, plans and ideas, share them with me, and I’d help him build, be his extra pair of hands. He even put me on a few of his patents, managed my stocks and investments, so I would have some money no matter what. He didn’t do my homework or anything like that, even as a kid there was an idea that he was special…and I wasn’t. I didn’t blame him, and I don’t still. It’s the truth! So we lived our lives, him growing up fast, me at…I guess the normal pace? Average in most things, good at being physical, but not exceptional. He was popular with girls, and guys, and I met my high school sweetheart and married her in our early 20s… He went off to a high tech research consortium, and I worked with dad in construction, took over the management side when things got too much for the old man. My brother made sure we had money, didn’t *have* to work, but who would we be if we put everything on his shoulders? That wouldn’t be fair, even if it wouldn’t hurt or hinder him in the slightest. We were brothers, we loved each other, from a distance. But we weren’t close. His life was so *big* and grand, and mine was normal. It’s like being related to some historical figure; they did amazing things, and you’re kinda proud to be related, but it’s hard to imagine you even live in the same world sometimes. — One day the warnings came. A tornado, again, like most of the rest of the days that week. It had been bad, a string of storms hammering Tornado Alley, which was slowly growing wider and including more people than ever. Global weather was taking a turn for the worse, but we couldn’t do anything about it, not with rampant global warming heating things up and destabilizing the world. Word was we only had about ten years before some *really bad* shit started. That the bigwigs and rich people were planning on leaving the planet, going somewhere in the Belt or Mars or some of Jupiter’s moons. We’d established basic colonies out in space just before I was born, and it seemed that the predictions of so many were going to come true: the rich would flee, and we’d be left to die. I felt bad that I’d brought my daughter into such a world, sometimes, but how was I to know? I’d still have her in a heartbeat. Anyway, the storm. I went for the shelter…and I can only see images after that. I was home alone, thank god. I see the darkness, feel the wind *pushing* the house. I can see the lightning, turning the now pitch black afternoon to blinding brilliance. And I can see the beam, splintered, jagged… I know where it hit me, what came out of me…how cold and hot and…fuzzy? No, but some sensation like it, something **wrong** with me. One arm wouldn’t move, neither would my legs…I could feel death coming, see the splinters of my home, supposedly designed to withstand storm force winds, scattered around. The next thing I know, I’m groggily awake, in a canvas military style tent, thunder rumbling outside. My wife and daughter curled up on a cot to the side…tubes..machines and IV drips and things I have no name for all around me. White cloth rustles and suddenly there’s a shape above me. My brother. I try to speak, but he tells me not to. “You’re bad off bro. Worse than anything you’re thinking.” He pauses, shaking his head. “You left a lot of you at home. Finally lost some weight like you said you would…” I guess he still reads my blog. I stared at him, aghast and confused, pain seeping in finally past what I’m sure was a sea of painkillers. I knew how bad I was, before he even said anything..how was I even alive now? “Don’t worry bro, I’ve got you. You’ll be better than ever.” I closed my eyes, tears leaking out. I knew he’d *try*, but… I motioned, using my one good eye to convey what I could, my arm moving, shoulders and body twitching, mouthing what I wanted to say. Our oldest, secure language. I looked at my wife and daughter, then back to him. *Promise me, you’ll take care of them.* “Like I said, I got you.” — And that’s how I found myself here, in space. Far from home, on an orbital platform out of Star Trek, watching the world turn. The global storm belt flashes with light, even from all the way up here. I can reach out and touch it, almost, and you can’t even tell my arm is a replacement, or see the scars on my face and body without a microscope and luck. But you can see the rank insignia on my uniform: Overseer. Highest rank on the platform, even above my brother, the guy who built the damn thing. I answer only to the other Overseers, on the Council of Human Reconstruction and Preservation. Im in charge of our platform, and all our ships, and captain of the council itself. Turns out, when you have a bunch of super geniuses, they tend to forget to take care of themselves. Take the average otaku from Japan’s past, mix in Doc from Back to the Future, Einstein, and the kind of tech hoarder who puts junkyards to shame, and you’ve got the average genius on our fleet of platforms. And my brother is the worst one. Turns out, most super genius types are loners, recluses and don’t have siblings…or at least well adjusted siblings. It’s rare for someone like me to exist and even want to acknowledge my brother, much less support him. So they gave me a job, watching over him and his think tank, working to keep them fed, active and on task…even if I have to spank them myself. I oversee the geniuses working to save our planet. My brother the super genius, mad scientist, wonder child. We weren’t close, still aren’t typical siblings…but he saved my life, my family, and soon the world. We aren’t close, still, but we do love each other.


This is actually really beautiful to read, also that thing about geniuses being messes is super true lmao


My sister has always been distant. She was smarter than me to such an extent whenever she discibed anything i could only smile and nod, and try to understand. But as we grew up she got farther and farther away. I tried to support her, even when our parents hated what she did and forced her out of the house. I never understood what she was doing but i know she made monsters for all sorts of things, construction and medicine, asembly, and even transportation! I always thought it was the coolest thing ever. And On my 18th birthday i got my last contact with her for years to come. She sent me a letter, it explained her situation in her medical and leangthy way of communicating saying how she had to distance herself from me. Even further than she always was. She sent a little monster with the letter, a companion animal just for me, her little brother. I named him dexter. My parents kicked me out of the house for keeping it. It took a while but i eventually had my feet back under me, all the while hearing about the terrifying supervillan known as the monster queen, and how a gang of cosplayers are fighting her near daily. But it has been a long time, so long the only thing i have to remember her by is the little flying, fluffy centipede monster that keeps me compony. At 34 years old i could only hope she was ok. When i finaly got a job i was over the moon, i would be working for a construction compony specalized with superhero fights in mind, i worked for months on sites just to have a group of cosplayers and furrys with superpowers to turn it to rubble. Unfortunately for me, i was on the site when one of those superheros was thrown through a concrete wall near me. --- My heart was pounding harder than it ever had, how could i have missed the alarms in place for this kind of thing!? It took me mere moments to remember the budget cuts. "Ah. Right. Forgot about those." The stairs i was heading too were colapsed, massive chunks of debree blocking the stairway down like a cork i only had a few options from there, i could climb down the elevator like some kind of action movie or i could use dexter and possibly draw attention from trigger happy heros and an unkown villan. I of course chose the elevator. Every elevator nowadays has a ladder built into the shaft fraim allowing for access in case of someone cutting the cables, they were used so often it was scary to think of how many elevators broke nowadays. But there it was, my way to the ground floor, freedom and safety. As i was prying open the elevator doors with dexters help i heard a scream. "Help! Please im gonna fall!" It must have been a co-worker that hadent gotten the warning same as me, and i cant just leave a freind behind! That would haunt me forever. It helped that having dexter on my shoulder made feel like i could take on the world. "Im on my way hold on!" I shouted, hoping they could hear me over the fight that had been getting closer with every passing second I ran to the noise finding a massive hole goudged out of the renforced concrete, a gloved hand held tightly to a peice of rebar but was unable to haul itself up. Peering over the edge i saw a hero, one of his arms was dislocated and the other held for dear life as i came closer. "Please you gotta help! The monster is coming closer i cant hold on much longer!" He cried out to me as i bent over to grab his hand, as i was hauling him up i was shaken along with the building, it wasent powerfull by any means, merely a shockwave that vibrated windows. But it was enough, and we both fell. "WINGS!" I shouted to dexter, holding on for dear life to the heros good arm as dexter shot his wings through the back of my shirt slowing our fall so quickly i was sure i had a little wiplash from it. As we gently floated to the ground and touched down on solid ground the hero and i stood for a moment, "Thanks" he said to me " my team is a couple blocks away i thought i was a gonner" I smiled and chuckled "Maybe you can buy me lunch sometime to repay me" The hero paused before chuckling himself, "I think id like that, now you better get out of here its not safe for an untrained hero like yourself to be in combat like this." I was confused until i remembered dexters wings still stuck out of the back of my shirt like a pair of sails "Ah! Haha, yeah i better leave it to the pros. See ya round. And good luck!" I took off across the street with a goofy smile, I dident hear what he said as i left but im fairly certin it was somthing along the lines of "Watch out for that truck!" Becouse the last thing i saw was my compony logo welded to a cement truck driving towords me at four times the limit, and dexter wrapping around my head like a fluffy crash helmet. And now im here. With my older sister lurking over me with the most consurn on her face i had ever seen. Before i passed out on her opporating table i tried to tell her somthing, "Dont cry, youll make me cry sis" Unfortunately i was unable to see anything else or even have done more than mouth those words. A severed head cant do much... Unless your the mad genius monster queen that is.


The alarm blayered into my ears its sound was familier but foreign, it sounded like my wake up alarm but it was far angerier. Far more persistant. And when i reached for the stop button there was nothing for me to hit, just empty air. " dexter? Dexter please turn that thing off i cant reach it." Moments later the alarm stopped, but i knew i had to get out of bed, for a few blissful moment i dident remember anything.but as i sat up i began to notice more, i felt strange, a wrongness blanketed my body and as a headache slammed into me like a tru- everything came rushing back. "DEXTER!" I jumpped out of bed, slamming shoulder first into a solid wall my eyes shot open and i saw nothing but grey steel and hospitle white. Surching franticly i saw the bed i was laying in, Medical, large and built for patient comfort. But also made of somthing that looked... Organic. A broken iv drip hung from my arm, i tore it away adrenalin pumping to find my freind Turning around i found him Floating in a tank of gelatinus goop. And torn into four peices. I was about to break down, bawl my eyes out, scream at the top of my lungs when a familier voice, cold as dry ice and deadpan as they come. "Do not cry brother, specimen number 257800.3 nickname dexter was given extensive regeneration and stem cell production. It is one of my most durable creations to date." Hearing that feminine deadpan awoke my zoning out and dumb down abilitys that i beleived had withered up and died years ago. And it saved me the breakdown. Dexters ok. He will be better soon. He just has to rest. I calmed down, still on the verge of crying i stumble over to my big sister and hug her, "Ach. Wait. Your body has been enha-" As i held her i zoned out, memories of my recovery by her hands began to flow back. Pain and weightlessness. Breathing in thick fluid. Burning shocks and pains in my bones. Muscles cramping and uncramping in sequence. And i cried. I cried for minutes barely noticing her hands wrap around me awkwordly. I had so much to say, i beleived her to be so far away but my sister was the one who kept me motivated, and she was the best family i had. Looking back i wished i wrote more. "Brother, brother can you calm down," she said through gritted teeth "i made you better. You are breaking my ribcage" I set her down, and i imidietly blanked on how to proceed. "Thank you. Now then, would uou like good news or bad news." I had to laugh "So you learned how to ask before giving bad news first?" "I have learned that and many more things... emotion is still a dificulty but im begining to be able to differentiate." "Well dont keep me waiting too long, lets hear the bad news first." She nodded her head and pulled out a small tablet, the frame of witch was white and textured like sun bleached bone " the bad news is you were clinicly dead for over 20 minutes. The cement truck decapitated you via shearing blunt force, subject dexter saved your brain matter and transported you here via flight. This has had the unfortunate consequence of leading the gang of super freinds streight to me. As the alarm is what woke you i beleive you understand somthing is going wrong. It took me a moment to unpack all of that. I was dead. Dexter had earned himself an extra helping of treats. Our location is under attack by... a bargin bin superhero gang. And the alarm was not ment for me. "Oookay. And good news?" " you are now the most powerful non super on the planet." For once in my life i regretted what i was about to ask. " can you please clarify?" She smiled. I hadent seen her smile since the first time she made a monster. And as she was opening her mouth to execute me via rant a tapping of glass interupted her. I turned to see a long fluffy freind tapping on the glass of the containment tube, he was missing a few bits but i could already see them growing back in real time. I hugged the glass, couldent do much else with it between us. My sister poked my head with a clipboard with a thick pile of paper attached "Take this. It is a full list of all the modifications i have done to your body to make you you... i shall withold how much the overall cost is at this time." I burdt out laughing my sister had told a joke. Thats it, the worlds ending. No other explination. As my laughter died down i sat back onto the large hospitle bed " i think we have more thungs to catch up on sis." She looked at me with her ususal unimpressed glare " alright then. I shall begin" she breathed in deep and began to speak. This would take a while. (More latter. Need to prep for the comming huricane.)


When you can do a proofreading check, but the story it's so far amazing, I'll wait for more, be safe!


I'm pretty sure the spelling is on purpose.


Florida Men unite!


Stay safe. I look forward to part 3.


Loved it!!


This is such a lovely story!!! I hope dexter is ok🥺.


P2 is done more later




how dare you leave it in a cliffhanger like that


We absolutely **NEED** a part 2 and dexter better be ok 😡


Aight aight gimmie a minute i gotta do some chores first


Reject chores, revive dexter


P2 is done more later


Nice work. I liked the subtle hints towards the mc's sister's "profession". I do have some spell checks for you: company\*, gouged\*, didn't\*, & concern\*. Those can be some hard words to spell with only knowing the sounds. The ending is also great. It makes me anticipate what will happen next


Thanks P2 is here


What happened to Dexter??


Yeees give me moreeee. EL psy Congroo!!!


P2 is done more later.


She is mad scientist! Sunuvabitch


IS Dexter going to become a Dullahan ?


I met Ginger when I was 7 and she was 23. I was told she was my half-sister. Though at the time I didn't really know which half. She'd gone off to college and found my dad. It started a lot of yelling. I wanted to get to know her, but she seemed like an adult. How could she be my sister? My friends had sisters, but they were always only a LITTLE older or a LITTLE younger. She was so much older and she had a look in her eyes like she was always a little angry. Any time I talked with her it made me feel like I was just bothering her. Just a dumb kid annoying an adult. Not my sister. But I liked her. She wasn't nice. Or kind. Or caring. But she held my hand and walked me away when our parents started yelling. When I was so scared that they'd start looking at me. She was brave. She lived with us for 1 year, and after that, she left again. The yelling didn't stop though, but I was at least brave enough to leave the room. Life went on as normal for years and I never saw her again in all that time. Until I was 16. I'd grown to understand what infidelity and divorce meant. What a half-sister really meant. I knew it wasn't her fault, but felt weirdly mad at her. Partly because she left. Partly because she never wrote or saw us. Even though I knew exactly why she never came back. When winter break came that year, my friends and I wanted to go snowboarding instead of sledding. We all thought it sounded cooler. I broke my legs. I broke my arms. I broke my spine. I lied in the snow. Screaming in pain until my throat scratched raw, with not a single sound of my friends coming to help. And then, under protest, I let the darkness take me. I woke up to her face standing over me. I tried to speak but my face wouldn't move. My head wouldn't move. She stared at my face, looking angry. Annoyed. I couldn't close my eyes. I was forced to stare straight ahead as she moved around the room. As she picked up torches and spanners. As huge machines began to float around her and fire danced behind her hands. She never spoke a word. Then she walked towards me and reached over my eyes. I woke up in my bed. I could hear again. My mom was screaming on the phone in the other room. At my dad or the police. I looked down and felt my arms. They were different. Heavier. I stood up and immediately fell backwards. My chest felt all wrong. My balance was too lopsided. I did my best to hold on to the wall. I managed to get to the door and walk outside. Leaving my mom and dad to whatever fight they were having or would have. I wanted to see her there, that same annoyed expression, that same anger in her eyes at everyone around her. But she wasn't. I looked around, the back of my head wondering how of the dozen different ways she could have known where I was. How I was. I took another step off the porch. It was time for me to find her. To have a real conversation with my sister.


I really like this one. Thanks for sharing!


This is a great prompt


I'm curious to know what Ginger has done. Maybe that will be revealed in part 2?


Jumping on the part 2 band wagon!


As a snowboarder I feel compelled to point out that there's nothing you can do on a snowboard to injure yourself that badly that you couldn't also do on a sled.


Yeah, I mean snowboards are just better designed sleds, to oversimplify it. And what kid hasn't tried to stand while sledding?


Me because i thought we were all born with common sense


As children? Have you met other children?


Not as many as you might think. Made most off my friends later because i did nothing. But move. Aroound constantly


Made my first real friend at like 15


Anyways im not saying you are wrong because youre. Not. Im just saying i dont have. A frame oof reference foor those kind. Of shenanigans


M04R please..


Great story! I’m hoping for a part two too!


It was alright, no reveal and kind of a time waster


Joshua and I had never really gotten along. My earliest memory of him was about us playing together in the neighbourhood park. He was three years older, but I was already faster and stronger. We had been racing to see who could climb the rope tower the quickest. I won, of course. I still remember his sulking face. "Braindead," he used to call me. I remember not knowing what he meant. Fast forward a decade or so. He'd gotten some scholarship to Massachusetts something or another college. He'd worked his ass off for it. I was still in high school, and I was the best offensive lineman on the football team. I joked that I'd get a better scholarship without needing any effort. I'd never seen him get so angry before. He totally freaked out and was smashing shit and trying to attack me. Dad had to restrain him, which fortunately wasn't difficult, given how scrawny he was. Joshua cut us off after that, and I didn't hear from him for a long time. In the end I was right, though. I got a scholarship easy. Not by sports, though, I went to the military. It was a Rote scholarship, and it was way simple to get. I just copied my answers from the right classmate and I was in. The actual army bit wasn't too difficult either, just lots of physical stuff and following orders. I like routine, and yelling at people, so it was a good and easy fit. My muscle memory had always been fantastic, and each day basically happened on autopilot. I liked not having to think. It was easy, and I had a good time. I rose through the ranks quickly. I was a SFC, and moving for promotion soon, when the accident happened. It was dumb. A training accident. I ordered CPL Smith to unload the truck and he swung the crate right into my forehead. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground, and I was seeing stars, and I couldn't move. Then it all went black. When I woke up, I was in a very bright room. The lights hurt my eyes. I couldn't blink. I couldn't even move my eyes to look somewhere else. "Hello, brother," said a familiar voice. A figure leaned into my vision. It was Joshua. What was he doing here? "You're probably hurting a lot," Joshua said. *Not really*, I wanted to reply, but I couldn't move my lips or my lungs. My brother ran a finger tenderly across my forehead, tracing a line down my neck, my chest, all the way down to my hip. I would have shivered if I could. "What a strange situation to find yourself in, hmm?" Joshua said. "Strapped to a table. Helpless. Paralyzed. Where's that strength of yours now, hmm? All your muscle and brawn? That's right, it's useless, like it always has been." He consulted some screen that was outside my vision. "Ah, your heartrate increased. So you *can* hear me. Well, let me tell you what's going to happen. You had a terrible, terrible accident." His voice was sickly sweet, cloying, taunting. "But I fixed you. I'm a researcher here. I'm the head of the Experimental Procedures department. I repaired your haemorrhaging skull. I spliced your splintered spine and nerves. But I did a little extra something. I cut some of your brain nerves, and now they all think you're braindead. Well, you always were, but now you're medically classified as one. All your brain sensors are just flatlining now, even though I'm sure you can hear me." Joshua brought a monitor into my field of view. I couldn't read it, but even I could tell it was mostly flat lines. Joshua continued speaking. "And now, what do you do with a braindead patient? Organ donation, usually. Wouldn't you like that? Your strong, whole body, sliced up and distributed to other people?" He paused. "But no, I thought of a better way. See, I've got cancer. *I'm dying*. But I'm far more valuable to society than *you*. And, what luck! It seems our blood types and DNA are compatible. Perfect for a brain transplant, wouldn't you say?" "So I'm going to be taking your body. It'll be me living in your body tomorrow, not you. And I'll make much better use of it than you did. I hope you enjoy the surgery - they don't usually anaesthetize braindead patients. It starts in six hours, which is about twenty-two thousand seconds, so... happy counting!" With a final sinister grin, he left me alone. I wanted to scream, to kick myself off the gurney, but my body wasn't listening to me. But I wouldn't give up. I couldn't. I didn't care how, but I would get back at him. Somehow. No matter what. --- **REUTERS**, *2 min read* #BREAKING NEWS: Schizophrenic Patient Escapes From Military Hospital BY-standers near the Arlington Military Hospital reported seeing a bald, well-built man running erratically outside the building, apparently having a violent struggle with himself before falling unconscious. According to anonymous sources within the hospital, the man, who remains unidentified, seems to have undergone a brain procedure but suffered a schizophrenic episode immediately after the operation. The patient exited the hospital through the front door and ran headfirst into the brick walls multiple times, leaving bloodstains at the scene. The patient then seemed to choke, gripping his neck with both his hands for several minutes before falling unconscious. Military personnel then retrieved the unconscious patient and brought him back inside the hospital. The current status of the patient is unknown. The Arlington Military Hospital was not available for comment.


My first expectation while reading the prompt: Heart warming sibling bonding and reconciliation Me after reading: Well...that was unexpected but nonetheless awesome by how chilling it was.!


Wauw that was a chiling read!


Wow thats impressively disturbing.


Just to reassure people, they do give anaesthetics to brain dead people for organ donation. The brain may not feel it, but the body can still respond negatively to pain.


After our mothers death, Lindy had devoted her entire childhood to researching cancer. Her obsession with finding a cure would assumably lead her down a medical path. I cut all contact with her after she almost got detained for experimenting on humans illegally. Now here I lie, with the familiar blonde hair hanging over me. Her glasses had one cracked lense as she smiled at me with a cheeky grin. She took off her gloves and tossed them into a garbage can which clacked loudly as her foot hit the pedal. I winced as I finally felt all my senses coming back. What happened to me? The last thing I remember was being late to work. I spent the night at my boyfriends place, unable to escape his grasp in the early morning. He was quite adorable when sleeping... Where was I? "Lindy?" I called out as she swiveled around. She had grown much taller. She was my younger sister, not my little sister. Just like our mother she was incredibly tall and slender. She was pale and seemed even thinner than she was as a kid. "Shuza you really should be more careful. You can be thankful I am this good at my job." She swapped whatever jacket she was wearing with a cleaner one. I sat up straight asking where I was. "Mamma" she said point upwards. Was I dead? Were we in purgatory? I started to panic, my lungs not getting enough air. But would I be in pain if I had died? "No you dummy, Mamma" she said pointing upward. I glimpsed up and saw a grid. We were underneath the fireplace. We were underneath our home. The last place my mom was alive. Underneath the very fireplace where we kept her ashes all those years. But my father moved out of the house just after I moved out. Did my sister buy the house from him? I had too many questions and just wanted to go home and, my phone. I couldn't find my phone. My boyfriend must be worried sick. There isn't a day that goes buy that I don't blow up his phone with a million messages explaining my day or random things I remember. I wasn't wearing my own clothes. I was in a gown. My sister headed up the stairs before shouting, "Two sugars?" When lindy came back she explained that I had been in a car accident. A truck transporting bricks had swerved, impacting my pink mini car. The bricks breaking the window and totalling my car. Lindy found me in the hospital she worked at in the ICU. She freaked out seeing me there and snuck me out of the hospital and drove me home to her private lab. She didn't trust anyone else working there since the conspiracy of that one nurse causing my mothers coma and death thereafter. She didn't trust anyone but herself with me. Me being an identical replica of my mother had left her a bit of a wreck. She managed to keep me alive but all my belongings were scattered between my work and the hospital. I was shocked she'd go through these lengths but with a mug of hot chocolate it my hand, I regretted not talking to her. She started rambling on about her research and how much she had discovered. She grabbed me by my shoulder and stared deep into my soul. "I need your blood" I never believed in vampires but for a split second thought it would explain the wierdly shaped teeth in out family. "Lindy, what the heck" I stepped away for a moment looking down at the bandages. "I never got a sample of her blood and well... It might be the missing piece in my research, please Shuza, I only need two cups full of pure blood." I was never afraid of needles, but seeing her twisted smile, lindy managed to get me to black out. Who knew why, I surely didn't. Not until I woke up back in her secret underground makeshift lab.


I never knew exactly why he pieced me back together. There'd been too much bad blood between us, too many years without so much as an accidental butt-dial (are there on purpose butt dials?); nevertheless, I woke up with my brother's sunken eyes staring down at me in his lab. He'd gathered what was left of my body from the morgue after the car accident and pieced me back together best he could. I think he was looking to play Frankenstein; he stopped messing with doomsday weapons after bringing me back, instead using what wealth he'd acquired from selling black market tech over the years to build a cybernetics lab out in the middle of nowhere with me as his sole research subject. The monster raised from the dead. His big brother. I could have escaped. Neither he nor Eva—my brother's companion droid—had any idea my restraining bolt wasn't functional. Hours spent hunched over a workbench designing my skin, dragging his exhausted behind up to the residential level to collapse into bed, I could have undocked and slipped right out. But knowing and wanting were not the same thing. What I wanted was my life back. And my little brother wanted to make me look as human as possible before parading me in front of his mad scientist buddies. So, for the time being, I was just a car in a chop-shop. A totally bitchin' car. My bio-ethics professor used to say that the moment humanity started using tools was the moment we became cyborgs. Whether it be a prosthetic arm or a sharpened stick, both are tools used by us to interact with the world as extensions of ourselves. And I had more than a sharpened stick. Thanks to my array of sensors, the world expanded beyond sensations and colors and smells. There were radio signals and thermal signatures and cosmic radiation and parallel thoughts running in the background of my overclocked mind. I wasn't merely alive—I was experiencing the universe. And the media! It must have been some time before he brought me online because all my favorite shows had either ended or were doing prequel spinoffs. And don't get me started on all the music and books and social trends to catch up on. You might think it a waste to spend my obscene processing power on binge-watching shows, but compared to hacking dark feed databases and destabilizing foreign governments? I was engaging with the world on my terms. There's this sci-fi show called *The Last Empirio* about a ragtag group of space pirates and their desperate plan to impersonate a recently deceased emperor to get out of a debt to a revolutionary army. I think he would like it. Anyway, that's been my life for the past two years. But the problem with selling black market tech—especially when you're as talented as my little brother—is that when you stop, there's folks who aren't gonna be happy about that. Dangerous folks. The type of folks who send well-armed mercenaries to break into what should have been an untraceable lab to kidnap you. They crept through the darkened lab swinging their gun lights around and packing up anything valuable. Thermal cannons, vibra-blades, neural disruptors... they ignored the robotic body hanging from the wall-mounted dock. I could have hung there and continued watching episode seven of *The Last Empirio* had Eva not entered the lab to investigate the noise. "Hey! You're tress—" She barely finished her automated alert before one of the mercs tagged her with a EMP round, dropping her to the ground in a carbon-fiber heap. My docking harness disengaged with a *click* and *hiss*. I hadn't paid much attention to the firing protocols during weapons tests. I also hadn't been in an actual fight since the fourth grade. But these bastards might as well have been fourth graders. They started shouting in Italian when their EMP rounds bounced off my chest harmlessly. Their shouts turned to screams of pure panic when I started breaking bones. Just hands and feet, nothing too serious. Their whimpering brought back memories of home. Of nights huddled against my brother in our bedroom, waiting for the shouting to be over. I ran a script dampening those emotions and finished my work, making sure to scrub myself from the Security Feed recording. The lab lights flickered to life and my brother—well, I don't know if he considered me family at this point. He never called me Cid, only Model 88—rushed in lugging an ion cannon, a hair-and-a-half too late to catch me stepping into my docking harness. He was shockingly strong for a man of his size, if you didn't know about all the augmentations he'd tested on himself. *How many others did you try all this cybernetic necromancy on, little bro? Or was I truly the first?* He scanned the room with a cold, calculating eye, hitting the crippled mercs with stun rounds. When he found Eva, he shouldered the cannon and knelt by her side. "Eva," he said in a clear and commanding tone. "Initiate reboot sequence." 3.4 seconds later, Eva sat up pinching the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger. "For the love of... I told you I needed better EMP defenses," she said and jumped to her feet. She twitched a little once standing. "You're still glitching. Here, let me run a diagnostic—" When she laughed, I almost blew my cover with a laugh of my own. "Glitching?" she said. "A little magnet round like that isn't enough to fry these circuits, Marcus. Remember the neutron collider? Now that was a glitch." He chuckled and unslung the ion cannon from his shoulder. "You're not wrong." "Of course I'm not! At least you got to most of them while I was down," she said and gestured towards the bedlam in the lab. "Efficient as ever," she smirked. He narrowed his eyes warily and stalked around her, inspecting the unconscious mercs, their discarded weapons, the trickles of blood from bones breaking skin... all leading back to me. An EMP round fell off me with a soft tap on the metal floor. He inched closer to the docking station, tapping a finger on the feed interface plugged into his right ear; I felt him accessing the Security Feed, his mind leaking through the network like water through a sieve. And when he reached the erased security recording, I slipped. Just the slightest finger twitch made impossible to ignore thanks to a metal body. He started bombarding me with hundreds of scans and diagnostic requests, but then a hand fell on his shoulder and he stopped. His jaw worked as he spoke with Eva on their own private feed channel, and his face flipped through several different emotions before his dark-rung eyes softened and he stalked away to the exit. "Come on, Eva," he said. "We've got guests to entertain." Eva looked up at me, smiling, and requested a private connection. I accepted. *He thinks the intruders hacked the Security Feed and is pretty pissed about it*, she said over the feed. *And why would he think that?* I asked. *Because... it would break his heart to find out he'd succeeded in bringing his big brother back to life only to find out you've been faking being brain dead this whole time.* "Are you coming, Eva?" my little brother shouted by the exit. *Are you going to tell him?* I asked. "That depends," Eva shouted over her shoulder, but looking me right in the eye. Then she continued on the feed: *The shouting has been over for quite some time. When are you going to talk to him?* "Depends on what?" asked my little brother. "On me," I said.


Murderbot vibes, very cool.


It was 3 am in the morning and I could hear them *crawling*. The sound was muffled and I felt like I was going crazy. I would snap, if this noise would continue throughout the night, I was sure of it. 32…33.. I tried to count down the seconds to calm myself. This nonsense had to stop. Isaac had always done this to me. Still, it never stopped to surprise me, how bloody annoying he could be. He never seemed to respect my boundaries. After all, I had to sleep. Not everyone could be born with such a high IQ, that they didn’t have to go to school. Not everyone had a master’s degree at *17*. But no, he and his damn cockroaches were awake all night long. Two days ago all of them had died. I had hoped and begged to the universe, that I would get just a single night of sleep, for once. Obviously it hadn’t heard my pleas. I took my pillow, rested it above my face, and screamed into the soft fabric. It smelled like sweat and despair. It felt surreal. Nobody in this household cared about the second child, the boring one. I just couldn’t wait to move out. I wanted to start my own life and finally find an identity that didn’t revolve around my brother’s abilities. The bliss of never having to sit out one of his strange experiments was my sole motivation for going on. He was *crazy*, no one could convince me otherwise. Our parents thought that he was gifted. ‚Don’t be too harsh on him, Sharleen‘, they would tell me. ‚Someday he will make an amazing discovery. You will be one of the first to know!‘, it had always been as if it was something to be proud of. I just wanted to be normal, spend a silent life. I didn’t *need* a scientist brother, who would either cure world hunger, or be the cause of a zombie apocalypse. There never was something in between with him. He was never grey, just black or white. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. With a deep breath I swung my legs out of the warmth of my bed and went out of my room. I knocked on his door. Once. Twice. He wouldn’t answer. „This little fucker…“, I muttered and tried to open the door. It was locked. My grip tightened around the cold metal and my heart began to drum so loudly, that I could feel the beat of the sound of anger in my ears. “I will end him”, without thinking too much I began to make my way down the stairs. If he wouldn’t open the door, I would break it with dad’s screwdriver. He couldn’t stop me. I could see it before my eyes; his angry face while I threw those roaches out of the window. Him running after them. Me locking the door behind him. Just once I wanted to *sleep*. Maybe the universe would do me the favour of him falling down the stairs and finally loosing some of his brain cells. And then it finally got silent. The drums played louder than ever, accompanied by strange cracking sounds. A scream, my mother’s voice, ended the symphony of my life. I could feel it. The stairs that should have been my gate to silence, silenced me instead. - When I finally woke up again, everything within me was aching. I looked up to the blurred face of my brother. “What did you do?”, I asked him angrily. It always had something to do with him. I would call an emergency hotline, *I just wanted to finally get out of here*. “You’re awake”, Isaac noted neutrally. His face didn’t show any reaction to my pain. This lack of empathy had to be forbidden. “Take a deep breath”, he instructed me and I screeched at him. Screech? “This new body was the only way to keep you in our… reality, for now”, panicking, I looked around and saw… my body. Lying. On the floor of his room. Or better said, my human remains. When I looked down, all I could see was the brown and hard shell of my new body. (I’m not a native speaker. Please excuse any mistakes!)


First post. Done on my phone. Etc. My little brother was the person they talked about in Jurrasic Park when they said, “They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they never stopped to consider if they should.” He had been obsessed with the “translocation of matter” ever since he saw me watching old episodes of Star Trek. I tried to listen, but I never did understand what the logic process was. Something about creating temporary quantum links between two locations in space time, so atoms could jump between two locations seemingly instantly. “It’s not teleportation” he would claim, “teleportation breaks the laws of physics. This is simply mimicking teleportation.” I couldn’t tell the difference, I just tried to support him, and be happy for him every time he had a small breakthrough. The problem is he didn’t know when to stop, or how to help ease the transition to a teleporting future. Yea he could teleport you across the world for less than a fiver, effectively killing the transportation and motoring industries. Next he demonstrated how you could do selective teleportation from multiple sources to a single destination. Allowing manufacturing to effectively 3D print a product at the atomic level in the blink of an eye, using just raw material and no manufacturing process. This allowed for amazing new products to be made that could never have been made before. It didn’t take long for online stores to allow people to do this at home, killing the manufacturing industry. He also showed how with selective teleportation, you could take a single source and teleport it to multiple locations, allowing for 100% recyclability, killing the refurbishment and repair industries. Next he took it to medical, doing the exact same thing. Surgery was now a product of a bygone era, something needs taken out? Teleport it. Medicine was no longer needed, disease wrecking havoc? Teleport the disease out. Heck even optometrist became relics as a result of them being able to teleport out bad eyes and teleport in good eyes like you would teleport in a burger. 4.5 billion people without jobs in less than 6 weeks. No one was ready, not even little Greggory. He tried to help but the governments and society in general, were just not setup for that many unemployed, soon to be homeless, and starving people. You could have anything in the world, except a job. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and although I had largely been spared the worst of it by my job in banking, others hadn’t been so lucky. It became a necessity to have security, not just at your job, but at your house, and you never go anywhere that isn’t guarded. One night I made a mistake. I was invited by one of my old college friends out for drinks. She had been hit hard by the downturn, she used to be the head of the logistics department. She had finally managed to land a job as a personal assistant and wanted to celebrate. Apparently the security at the bar had taken the security job to scout out the bar and that night was the night they attacked. I don’t know what happened, but what I do know is I must have died. I woke up to the scared face of my little brother, in a room I didn’t recognize, but could only assume to be one of his labs. He had been appalled at how quickly the world devolved into a crime state. So in secret he had been developing a “quick save” as he described it. Every time you teleport, that version of you gets saved, just in case you die. He had only done a very limited roll out until he could prove it worked. I had been one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately he still doesn’t think things through, as the police found my body, I am legally considered dead. Because I’m “dead” I no longer have a social security number, so I no longer can have a job, I can no longer own my house or even rent an apartment, because I don’t exist. I hate being the guinea pig.


I was born the day my brother was meant to receive his first Nobel Prize. For the first decade of my life it was a running joke in the family that I was the showstopper and shower-upper—my first beauty pageant taking place when he was defending his third doctorate, my elementary school graduation on the day of his wedding. It had always seemed like our parents wanted to pit us against each other, as if grinding me against the path of a genius would rear me into an even greater one; as if, conversely, it would make my brother more down-to-earth, “normal” in the way that I was, the way our parents hated that he never chose to be. These days people call him a mad scientist. He’s done more for society in the past year than I’ve ever accomplished in my entire life, but he does it in wacky ways, dramatic ways—he’s isolated himself from our entire family of Good Normal Christian People, to the point where I’d be surprised if he ever bothered to speak to our parents again. He sends me a card signed from him and his wife every year on my birthday, but after Aunt Martha called him the Devil on Christmas four years ago for engineering those vegan meat trees and ending world hunger, he hasn’t shown his face in this city again. So right now it’s a surprise to hear him speak right beside me, over me—like I’m lying in my bed and I’m seven again, and he’s reading aloud the children’s book that he wrote and illustrated for me when I was two. Only, right now he’s not reciting from a book: he sounds angry. The “mad” to his scientist, I guess. The shouting makes my head spin, and in the fuzzy darkness behind my eyelids I try to stop the world from tilting on its side even though I’m fairly certain I’m not even moving. “You’ve *ruined* her!” I hear our mother cry, and she sounds like she’s a million miles away, wailing from behind a glass wall. “My beautiful, *pure* daughter, you’ve turned her into a *monster*!” Bile pools up at the back of my throat, and my head aches. My whole body aches, actually, like my bones are made of a million pieces put back together, like my muscles have been stretched into threads and respun into new cloth, a new body. The weight of my own arm is like lead, my eyelids just as heavy. It’s like when you’re trying to sleep and you get sleep paralysis, forced to watch the demon in the corner, only right now the nightmare is real and screaming her head off from across the room. “*Shut the fuck up!*” That’s Damien, world-renowned Mad Scientist and my older brother. He’s right next to me, a cool presence at my left side brain, and he sounds angrier than I’ve ever heard him in my entire life. I didn’t even know he could sound that angry. We’re not close, but he’s always been the funny, dreamy uncle type—the type to make you laugh by blowing bubbles out of strawberry soda, not the type to sound like he’s three seconds away from committing a murder. “You fucking Devil,” Mother accuses, “you *ruined her*!” “*You’re* the one who did this!” he roars back, and it’s guttural, furious. “If it weren’t for you, Max *never would have jumped in front of that train!*”


Oh. The past and present catches up to me all at once, hitting me like—well, like the train that hit me. That explains the pain, the aches, the, the bed, I guess. This is a hospital. Or it should be? But for someone who had desperately tried to unalive themself, I’m suprisingly… whole. Mother tries to yell something in return, but there’s the sound of a panel whooshing shut, the window allowing her into the room disappearing from existence. For a moment Damien grumbles to himself, the mutterings of a genius spilling out under his breath, before he stops himself and sighs quietly. “Max, you’re awake, aren’t you?” Caught me red-handed. I make an attempt at cracking open an eye, and when the room slowly comes into focus without making my headache worse, I try nodding my head in answer. *That* makes stars bloom at the edges of my vision, and knowingly, because he always knows everything, Damien presses a cold hand to my feverish forehead, his wedding ring pressing lightly against my brow bone. “I’m sorry we had to see each other again like this.” I exhale. When I speak, my voice is rough and weird-sounding, but not painful. “I didn’t… think you’d notice.” “What, that my baby brother got eviscerated by a freight train and that the police are still finding your bones two hundred miles from where you were first found?” “Shit… I made it that far?” “*Max*,” he says sternly, and the forced humor stuffs up my throat, makes my eyes sting. “Max, there almost wasn’t enough of you left for me to put you back together. I had to regrow nearly every part of you from the Prometheus Apples, and even now I’m not sure how good of a job I did. That you’re able to talk to me is a good sign, but…” I give him a watery smile. “Oh, is that why my voice sounds like I swallowed a cactus whole?” “What, that? Oh, uh…” My stomach turns, and it’s a nausea that’s not just physical. “Damien, what?” You see, growing up with a mad scientist for a brother means that you learn to recognize when he’s done something even he considers crazy. Granted, each time I’ve heard his ‘Oh, uh…’ it was followed by him showing up on the news with a new medal or whatever for his services to humanity, but now… “Don’t tell me, I really am a monster?” “What? Don’t be silly. You just… err… like I said, I had to regrow your body, so…” “Damien? Damien, what did you do?” “So, you know… about that… How much of your body can you feel right now?” Now that I’m more awake, I’m aware of how everything aches, but also aware of how *little* it actually hurts, when, all things considered, I was smashed into human paste by a literal train. First, I catalogue my hands—all ten fingers intact—and then my legs—my ankles flex smoothly, properly going en pointe—before I focus proximally and notice it. It. The thing. The thing I can feel, just, kind of, like, sitting there. Like, between my legs. *The thing.* “Damien, you *did not* just grow me a dick.” “So…” “Damien, you gave me top surgery too?!” “Technically, it’s not top surgery, because that tissue was never grown in the first place.” “*Damien*,” I whisper-yell with my rough and actually properly *deep* voice, “this is the weirdest and best thing you’ve ever done for me.” “So you like it?” No wonder Mother was wailing her head off. My head starts to spin again, but in a good way this time, and I laugh, choking and laughing some more, and maybe crying a bit too. My older brother, the mad scientist. He’d left home but he never stopped trying to hear from me, never stopped trying to support me even after our whole family denounced him. We haven’t had a proper face-to-face conversation since I was twelve, and even now that I’m sixteen, I can still feel the nearly two-decade age gap between us. But even though we shouldn’t be close, even though I only entered his life after he’d already become an adult, I can feel how sincere he is in the way he looks at me almost nervously. If Mother considers me a monster for this, I’ll happily embrace it. “You fucking mad lad,” I hiccup, and he wipes my tears away when I can’t do it myself, “I fucking *love* it.”


Growing up with Riley was... hard to say the least. They were the golden child, a certified genius, youngest person ever to graduate from Yarvard University, and I was just... a normal kid. So obviously I got overlooked sometimes. Well... I guess that's an understatement, but what's more important; a stupid little league game or the unveiling of a super soldier serum your kid worked on? My parents just wanted to make sure Riley got every opportunity they deserved. Riley never liked all the extra attention though. In fact they hated it. They would always complain to me about how suffocating it all was, how they hated that I was always getting the short end of the stick, how they sometimes wished they could become invisible. I tried my best to listen but... it always made me a bit angry. I just couldn't understand it. Riley always got whatever they wanted. Everyone loved Riley. Riley was perfect. Yet they... they wanted to give all of that up? I...I can still remember how hurt they looked when I finally blew up on them. How I screamed at them for how selfish they were for just wanting to be left alone. How I would have given anything to just... have a fraction of what they had. I remember our parents barging into the room and screaming at me for upsetting Riley, and I remember how much it hurt when dad smacked me across the room. The next day Riley disappeared and life quickly became unbearable. Mom and dad blamed me for Riley's disappearance, and even had me investigated by the police. There wasn't any solid evidence the police could find linking me to the disappearance, but the investigation gained enough media attention that it turned my entire hometown against me. When I turned 18 I fled from that nightmare and changed my name so that people couldn't connect me to Riley anymore. I was homeless for a bit, but eventually managed to land a job that paid just enough to rent a tiny apartment with some random guy I met at a local concert. Almost a decade later news started cropping up about a mad scientist that took over some secluded island. The place became a no-fly zone due to the crazy defense system they'd installed. The local government tried to retake the island, and within a month collapsed due to a combination of their communication network being hijacked, and several dozen... scandalous videos of their leaders causing the country's populace to revolt. The mad scientist was branded a terrorist and a global threat by the world's governments, and the island was deemed "enemy territory." After that the world seemed to just get crazier and crazier. One of the super soldiers Riley helped create was involved in the destruction of a chemical plant that was shipping supplies to the island, and a few months later some weirdo calling himself FreezerBurn shows up fighting a massive boar/koala hybrid. Some billionaire pays for the development of a super drone to take down the mad scientist, only for it to go haywire and try to exterminate mankind. I tried to ignore all of it, but it just... it just felt like Riley all over again. The entire *world* seemed to be obsessed with this stupid mad scientist and was bending over backwards dealing with them. I couldn't even grab a burger without listening to people talk about how this new hero Dr. Odd was teaming up with the Squidler to try and storm that stupid island. So I started wearing earbuds everywhere I went, with music blasting at full volume so I could just... ignore it all. I guess that was my mistake. After all, it's hard to hear people shouting when one of the top singles is blasting in your ears. I only noticed something was wrong when some jerk in a jetpack flew past me followed by a small shockwave that sent me tumbling. The next thing I knew, I was staring up at a brick wall as it came tumbling down right on top of me. Everything after that is hazy to me. I remember what looked like a man removing the rubble from on top of me, but he was all metal. I remember the wind rushing past me and making eye contact with a seagull. And then I remember looking up at a bright light and thinking that heaven sounded a lot like heavy metal. Strangely enough... I remember Riley too. I remember them shouting at the metal man that I want going to die, that I deserved better than that. And I... I remember them crying, and shouting for things I didn't understand. I woke up after that, back in my apartment and unsure if it had all just been some crazy dream. I looked fine in the mirror, but couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. That feeling only grew stronger when I turned on the T.V. and saw that the building where I'd been crushed was still damaged, and saw recordings of Jet Jammer locked in combat with a strange, flying man made out of metal. As I watched Jet throw what looked like grenades at the metal man, the world seemed to spin around me. I tried to stand, but collapsed almost immediately as a wave of nausea swept over me. I could only let out a pained gasp as I vomited all over my apartment floor, causing what felt like every nerve in my body to flare in pain. As the edges of my vision darkened, I glanced up and saw the metal man standing in the doorway wearing an apron while absentmindedly mixing something in a pot. He gently shook his head in disappointment, and right before I lost consciousness I heard him say. "I knew it was too soon. The body and mind need more time to acclimate. Looks like I'll have to initiate a partial reset."


Alex was always… odd. The way she kind of stared you down when you talk to her creeped me out, like you were a specimen in one of her jars. Alex liked to capture insects in jars, and she took a liking to moths, wasps, and bees. Everyone figured she’d be an entomologist when she goes up. However, she quickly revealed that she was more interested in far more interested in experimenting than observing. “Jan, come on! Alex is showing off her experiment, and she won’t be happy if you don’t show up”, my father told me while urging me to follow him. “Can we just leave already? We’ve been waiting for a *hour*”, I rudely replied back. “Jan! We’re already inside the building, the least you could do is appreciate all the hard work your sister’s put into this!” Alex unveiled her little project. There were 5 glass cubes filled with dirt. I quickly recognized them recognized as ant farms. They were each contained a small device on the side of them, and labeled from the lowest to highest output on the devices. “During the early days of land-based animal life, there were insects. These insects were similar to those of the present day, but they had one very distinct characteristic that separates the past from the present: Size.” “During this ancient times, insects were able to grow to sizes that would be considered enormous in comparison to today’s insects. A commonly accepted hypothesis for the size discrepancy is increased oxygen levels, which are theorized to have been elevated in the past.” “My hypothesis is that if an ant colony is placed in areas of elevated oxygen levels, then new drones will be larger than usual. I have placed five identical ant queens in ant farms and artificially altered oxygen levels within these ant farms”. She then pointed to each of the farms. “The first ant farm has 50% of normal oxygen levels, the second one has 75% of normal, fourth is 125% of normal, the fifth one has 150% of normal, and the third one has regular oxygen levels.” Alex spoke more about the experiment, and I waited with the patience of a fourth grader for her to finish. Eventually she concluded her experiments, and Alex showed her results. The ants raised in 150% oxygen levels were about five times as large as normal, which would’ve been interesting had Alex not already told me about it weeks earlier. The judges were amazed by her presentation, and I just rolled my eyes after seeing her once again being praised for her genius. She wasn’t half bad for a seventh-grader. She was considered for a national science fair. Unfortunately, due to a technicality her school was unable to compete in any official events. When Alex found out, she locked herself in her room for the rest of the day and didn’t let anyone inside. When Dad finally managed to unlock the door Alex was just sitting on the floor, watching an oversized ant move eggs around in one of her farms. “Alex, I know you put a lot of effort into your project, but you need to come out. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, there’s nothing anyone could’ve done about it”, Dad said. Alex didn’t seem to listen. She just kept staring at her ant farm. I left and grabbed her some bacon and eggs. Alex didn’t touch it while I was there, but after I checked back up on my older sister, her plate was empty and her lock had been reinforced. Alex stayed morose for the next eight years. She never took interest in anything that happened, and she mostly ignored us. The one thing that Alex ever took interest in was her ant colonies. She separated the largest one ant queen from her group and killed the other four. She then carefully deconstructed the four empty farms and rebuilt them as one giant farm for the enormous ant queen. Years passed, and eventually she graduated high school without making any real friends. Dad had a heart attack shortly after I graduated high school myself, and she didn’t even really show up for his funeral, although I thought I saw her face in the audience. Sometime later I saw a job offering as a reporter for the local news. I was out of a job and figured I might as well join. I drove over to the office and saw the run-down building that our local newspaper bought as a base of operations. “At least this time I won’t be fired from my job. I’ll just be sent off when it goes out of business,” I said to myself. An old rusty van was parked outside of the building, with faded letters spelling out the name of the company. “Do you have any credentials or experience in this field of work?” The employer asked. “No, I don’t.” I told him. He sighed, and asked if I could drive a van. I told him I could, and he told me he’d pay me 65 dollars per article. He wanted to see my reporting skills, however. He told me to drive over and investigate a car that had crashed against the cliffside just outside the city limits. “If I like your report, you’re hired. And don’t be sloppy! I want a full two pages with no grammatical errors!” I got in the dusty old van. It was brown and smelled like cat litter. I got inside and turned on the vehicle. A foul odor emerged from the engine, but I slowly put my pedal on the gas and started driving. It started trucking along slowly, with no problems. I ignored the smells and started looking for the car crash. The van was slowly moving on, and I tried to park it near the scene of the accident. I pressed down on the brakes, and… nothing happened. It wouldn’t stop. In fact, it seemed to be accelerating, faster and faster until it achieved speeds I thought were impossible for such an broken-down car. Suddenly, a brick wall appeared ahead of me. I tried to swerve out of the way, and… …


… …Darkness was all I could see. All-consuming dark surrounded me, and I knew I was dead. Nothing else existed, only darkness. But the darkness had a warmth. I felt calm in the darkness. The darkness was my friend. The darkness was my fortress. I was safe in the shadows. I moved around in the darkness. It wasn’t infinite, and soon I discovered it had a border. As I moved in the darkness, the darkness moved around me. It was moving, warm, safe, protecting, *alive*. After a time, I felt a strange sensation. Darkness gave way to a lesser darkness, and I felt fear. I wanted the real darkness back. I tried to move about, but the lesser darkness stopped me. My claustrophobia kicked in, and the false darkness held me captive. I kicked against my cage, but it was of no use. The false darkness wouldn’t leave me. I felt the edges of my prison, and I sensed a series of other cages all around mine. They were much smaller than mine, and they felt… empty, somehow. There were other cages with entities in them, but I was the only real person here. Sometime later, the true darkness came back. It noticed my movements within the prison it had put me in, and it seemed to observe me. It picked up cradled the outside of my cage and for a moment, I felt calm. Then it moved me away from the false others. The living darkness settled me in a remote location, and I felt that I was protected. I can see now, it’s very fuzzy, but I can see. Gray surrounds me, and it covers my entire world. A large black entity watches my every move. I feel watched, again, but this time the watcher seems concerned for me. A stone wall is carved with markings, and the Darkness presses a sharp talon against the wall, adding to the carvings. I press against the walls, and to my surprise, they feel much less rigid than they used to. The Darkness turns its attention to me. My head feels a sudden pressure. It seems to have a pattern to it, and I feel a darkness vibrate with it. I continue to press against my walls, and my cage gives way.


***Good, Good!*** I hear a voice in my head speak. The words roar in my mind as my prison rips apart. My fingers pierce through my containment like a pencil through paper, and suddenly… light… I slowly move in a circle, crawling at first and testing my abilities before trying to stand up. I fall a few times, but eventually I get used to my new form. I looked around. My new surroundings were warm and moist. It looked like a giant cave, but it had been carved out in an unnatural way. It looked as though it had been chipped away without much resistance. ***Hello there, little one.*** The voice resonates within my head, and I turn around. A giant black mass stands in front of me, staring at me. I run, panicking as I try to find a place to hide. I stumble back and fall onto the ground. ***Why are you scared? I do not want to hurt you.*** A sudden calming sensation swept through my brain, and I felt the living Darkness cradle my mind softly as it speaks. I look at the being in awe. The living Darkness flows through its presence, no, it *is* the Darkness. It is easily five times my size. It stands upright. Pure blackness covers its anthropomorphic body. Two pairs of translucent white wings sprout from the Darkness’s back, ***Do you know what is going on?*** The Darkness asks. I try to speak, but I’m completely mute. ***We can’t hear in the auditory sense. You’ll need to communicate the way I am with you.*** I look in confusion at the giant being. ***Okay, simply sort of aim your thoughts towards me, and then… send it. Just don’t overthink it.*** **Like this?** I try to send back. ***Just like that.*** The Darkness shouts back, drowning out my thoughts in its own voice. ***Little one. I sense a presence in you, which I do not in my other drones. You are more than they, but what are you, exactly?*** **I do not know. I feel that I did once ago.** I answer. ***What is your name?*** The Darkness asks. **You are my Maker. You give me a name.** The Darkness asks again, ***What is your name?*** **My name?** My mind fights, searching for an answer. I feel that I should know this. I should know this. **I… I do not comprehend this question. I sense that some part of me once did, but I have long since lost it. They are all just dreams, nonsensical dreams that are no longer relevant.**


Suddenly, a fleeting memory crosses my mind. **Jan. My… name… was… Jan.** I spout out. ***Jan? Your name was Jan Forrester?*** The Darkness shouts into my broken mind. **…yes…** I whisper, whimpering externally. ***Do you remember a person named Alex Forrester?*** **We were… in same egg cluster. She liked playing with insects. Wha… why…** I stumble, my memories overlapping. ***Jan… I’m Alex.*** The Darkness flutters her wings, and sits down beside me. She picks me up, and I feel the warmth of the living Darkness surround me. My mind goes numb with euphoria. The Darkness then puts me down on the floor. She stares at me, as if expecting me to respond. **I don’t remember you… as…** My memories of Alex slip away, and I’m left without a word to say. The Darkness lays down on a giant stone platform and starts telepathically speaking. ***I… I wanted to prevent unexpected failure in my work. Failure is mostly caused by human error, which is a result of mismanagement and neglect of instructions. I tried to make workers that would follow my orders exactly how I wanted them to. That way, any failure in my larger projects would be a result of my own incompetence, not someone else’s. I can fix my own mistakes.*** ***I used ants. I genetically modified them, made them follow instructions I could send. I tweaked on my design later, making them communicate via a low-power radio wavelength. I controlled the ant queen, which in turn controlled the hive. However I soon found that the ants were simply too weak. Despite my attempts, the ants simply couldn’t lift anything more than a few cubes of sugar. So I went back to editing them.*** ***I edited them to grow much larger than natural. They were now the size of a finger, but they weren’t strong enough. Eventually, the queen couldn’t grow any bigger via gene editing, causing me to have to wait and create another queen I could alter from her offspring, and then I had to alter out any possible mistakes that might result from inbreeding- the complexity escalated quickly. I did this eleven times before I got the idea of just implanting the DNA from the queen into a larger organism.*** ***At first I used a tarantula to implant DNA into, and when that worked I moved on to larger and more complex animals. I hit problem with oxygen flow, so I altered the ant DNA to include lungs blood, and a heart. I also created an antidote for the Then I had problems with controlling the hive, so I reworked the brain structure. Eventually I had to reinforce the structural components with carbon fiber.*** ***After a successful injection for lemurs, I got a little too curious. I wondered what would happen if I used MYSELF as the test subject. I got the antidote ready and injected myself with the DNA transmuter. It was supposed to be a quick test, I’d turn myself into a queen, produce a few drones, and turn back. Fun stuff. However, when I injected myself with the antidote… it didn’t work. Foolishly, I had not updated my antidote, and it ceased to work. I couldn’t use my lab equipment my antidote while in my current form, so I was stuck.*** (In progress)