After a punishing sprint down the corridor, I stop at the corner to wait for the bomb to detonate. The lab we are storming is the lock, and Dr. Sheila Blackwater, Head of Operation Resource, is the key. I’m here for answers. Holding my breath, I press my ear to the wall. A thump causes the floors to vibrate, followed by ear-piercing sounds of chaos inside. The lab’s solid steel door twists from its hinges. I shield my face from the debris and, wait for the signal.
‘Cassandra! Now!’ shouts Orion as he sprints past. Stopping, he turns around, yelling through concrete dust. ‘Go, go, go,’ then carries on, not looking back.
Galvanized into action, I leap over semi-conscious guards as I follow him, focused on the room. The walls are a blur of white as I tear down the corridor. Orion reaches the lab first. Grunts and screams echo off the walls as people stumble through the aftermath of the explosion. I step over the fallen door into the lab. Tables and equipment litter the floor. Orion ties Blackwater to one of the remaining upright chairs in the far corner. This woman has killed thousands in the name of science.
Picking up the nearest usable chair in the room and dragging it towards Blackwater, I sit down, place my hands on each of her torn thighs, watching for the first traces of terror in her dull eyes as her senses return to her.
‘I’m going to torture you. When you’ve told us what we want to know, we’ll let you die,’ I say, nodding to Orion who moves to the doorway to keep watch.
This is what I’ve trained for, but I don’t know if I can make it happen again. Looking at Orion, he seems to force a wry smile, then proceeds out of the room. I turn back to Blackwater who stares at me through bruised and blood-shot eyes.
Averting my gaze, I take a deep breath. I imagine my breath freezing in my lungs. I feel tense and rigid as a cool tingle travels through my nerves, down my arms and into my palms. The release of my newfound powers washes over my skin like a cooling fluid, as ice particles spring from my fingertips. Blackwater grunts and strains at the ropes, her movements are becoming stiff and slow, but she doesn’t look away.
‘Where’s my mother,’ I say, easing my palms away from her thighs.
No answer. I press both of my hands over her heart. This time I don’t hold back as the cold races down through my palms. I let go the moment Blackwater breaks eye contact. The tingling sensation stops.
‘I’ll ask one more time. Where, is, my mother?’
I stare at Blackwater, watching her teeth chatter behind her dark purple lips.
‘She wasn’t a viable candidate for the tests,’ she murmurs. ‘We thought she could save-’
I couldn’t stop. Her words were cut off by gurgling metallic screams. I didn’t want to stop myself. I placed my fingertips over her skull. I’d been through hell, for nothing.
‘Sacrifice one for the many,’ I say. The icy vibrations splinter down through to my nerve endings once more. ‘You won’t hurt anyone else.’
Sobbing into her lap, she looks up, ‘I’m your mother, God damn it. Kill me and you kill everyone,’ she says.
I snap my fingers from her head and stumble back. Feeling light headed, I examine her features, hoping for obvious differences. Could this woman be my biological mother? We have a similar complexion of pale skin, but all people living underground have similar features. I’m on the verge of hyperventilating when I realise we both have masses of curled hair.
‘No, no, no. You can’t be my mother. You’re a murderous bitch,’ I say, wiping my tears away, which freeze on my fingers.
I clutch my head, trying to contain the pounding throb. A brisk wind swirls around the room. Blackwater begins to struggle against her ropes again. Her mouth is agape when she turns to me.
‘So, you are an Elemental?’ she says, raising her voice above the increasing wind. ‘Please Cassandra, control it…or you’ll kill us both!’
‘The others are coming,’ says Orion, backing into the room. He almost falls over when he risks a glance in my direction. Placing my hands over each side of the door frame, I grit my teeth ready to unleash another wave of my abilities. A thick wall of impenetrable ice rises from the ground up as the guards round the corner. Bullets spark against the ice but it’s too thick. It’ll hold, for now. The wall beside my hand flickers. Turning to face Blackwater, her hands are in the air whilst Orion is pushing her back towards her chair. Taking my own seat, I lean back, crossing my legs. Orion flicks his red hair out of his face as he tightens the ropes over Blackwater’s wrists. Smiling, I realise this would be the second time he’s saved my ass. He walks over, picks up a gun from behind her and aims it on temple. Her breath catches.
‘Now, let’s have a little chat. Woman, to woman,’ I say. ‘What did you mean about candidates? Why are you kidnapping innocent people and killing them?’
Blackwater raises her eye-brows, ‘Innocent.’
‘The clippings I found suggested that my mother and father were taken not long after I was born. If you’re really my mother, you weren’t viable for the elemental trials. There were always rumours,’ I whisper, looking around the trashed lab. ‘Families are taken for experimentation all the time, but no one is ever left behind. So, why did I end up alone? Tell me what happened,’ I say, turning to face Blackwater again. ‘If you’re who you say you are tell me the truth?’
Like a seasoned politician, Blackwater doesn’t even shift in her seat.
‘The Bunker is a high security development but I have my contacts. I can get anyone in or out if I wish it,’ she says.
‘This place is ‘high security’ too, but we managed to escape and re-enter without your permission. Mam,’ Orion says, laughing.
Blackwater looks to me, ‘My predecessors assured me nothing would happen to you if I joined their cause to save the Earth.’
Taking a deep breath, I wonder how I could ever tell her everything her actions had put me through. Do the ends ever justify the means?
Orion takes the gun from her head and walks over towards me. Taking me aside, he places his hand on my forearm and whispers, ‘mother or not, why don’t you talk to her? Maybe she’ll understand why her execution is about to take place.’
Looking up at the stranger in front of me, I brace to tell her every excruciating detail of how I became an elemental, and why I blamed her for it.
* * *
A military sounding voice boomed over the speakers, ‘18-25 year olds, thirty minutes exercise completed. Please proceed to your work duties.’
Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I made my way back up to my room to change out of my damp clothes. It was Sunday evening, so I get to wear a white tunic and trousers. The hand-me-down clothes hung loose, but they were my favourite because of the cotton like fabric. Knowing I was running behind schedule, I tied my ebony hair in a messy ponytail and proceeded to the archive room, picking up the pace.
All I ever knew was routine, routine, routine. Wake up, eat, carry out work duties, exercise, more work duties, eat, sleep and repeat. Living underground in The Bunker sucked. It was one of the last liveable places we had, but it wasn’t home because my family weren’t there. Well, they weren’t anywhere. Okay, they’re dead. I once read that humans live underground because the Earth’s atmosphere changed. Something to do with what the old historians called, “global warming”. Working in archives had its benefits. I enjoyed the quiet, filing documents day after day. It was better than the other duties. This one girl I knew had to wash clothing, including underwear. So the prospect of being given the task of sorting newspaper clippings made me smile. Sifting through boxes had its dull moments too. That was until today when I found strange headlines.
Taking the box to the back of the archive room, I sat at a table hidden from the entrance by piles of unsorted documents. With each clipping came a new story, Earth in Despair! Will This Ever End? Desolate Wasteland! The Underground Movement. Another Family Taken!
There was a picture on the last clipping of a woman with a mass of hair. She looked like me, walking out of The Bunker with a man and a baby, crying.
‘What does this all mean?’ I whispered, looking up to see if anyone had entered the room. With no one in sight, I continued until I came across an article with the headline, GreenCorp Begins Elemental Trials in London.
‘London,’ I said a decibel louder than I should have. The Bunker was supposed to be one the last liveable vicinities within London. The article stated that, ‘Dr. Sheila Blackwater, Commander of the Operation, will be continuing the search for viable Elemental candidates. If successful, the Elementals will wield their abilities to re-generate the Earth, all in the Name of Science. All unviable candidates will be disposed of’.’
The droning voice once again echoed out of the speakers, ‘It is now 1900 hours. Dinner is being served. Citizens, please make your way to the mess halls.’
Folding the paper, I slid it into my waistband and put away all evidence of my curiosity. As I left the archive room, a security attendant crossed my path, walking over to the table I was sat at. Hiding near the entrance, I waited to see what she was doing. Looking at the boxes and back at the table she reached for her two way radio.
‘Reeves to Mazuer…she found it,’ she said, poking through the boxes.
After a long silence, a deep voice replied, ‘Mazuer to Reeves, we can’t risk the truth getting out. You know what to do. Mazuer Out.’
Turning away I tried not to look at any camera and walked at a steady pace down three levels to the mess hall. I didn’t think I was followed.
What the hell happened? I couldn’t seem to forget the word dispose. If was related to the family in the photo I found, where are they? Were they disposed of too? I was out of my depth. Wiping my palms on my tunic, I tried to cool down before entering; I couldn’t draw to attention to myself.
At dinner, I joined hundreds of people sitting down, ready to watch the projector. There were families everywhere, scattered throughout the hall around each table. They seemed happy. Tugging my sleeves, I had one last look. There was no sign of security attendant Reeves so I found an empty chair, got comfortable and crossed my arms. The lights went down and the projector flickered on.
The video depicted a happy suburban home. A man is sat on a porch drinking beer until another man walked out of the house, ‘Kids, dinner’s ready,’ he shouts.
The camera pans enough for us to watch the three children running across a flower filled field towards their parents. As they got closer, their playful attitude became fearful. They were no longer running on grass. Everything was dead. The flowers had wilted, and the trees had fallen. The family, huddled together on their porch, crying. The projection ended as the army arrived in military trucks with the name ‘Bunker no.7’ printed on the rear.
Later that night, I woke up to strange sounds, unable to open my heavy eyes lids. Dribble trickled down from my mouth.
‘Mazeur, the sedation worked. Out like a faulty light on a Christmas tree,’ the whispering voice said giggling.
‘Shut it. Help me load her in the van Reeves. She knows too much,’ another voice said, tugging my arms. ‘Blackwater can have another rat to experiment on.’
I didn’t know if I was waking up or entering a dream. The faint noise of a van faded out.
Waking up, I stared at the harsh clinical lighting above that wouldn’t stop flickering. Sitting up and looking around, I tried to gather my senses. Okay, think. Small white room, no windows, and hospital beds. Easing up I walked over to the far side of the room where a mirror dominated the wall. Unable to see through, I pounded my fists into it until it splintered. The glass fell like a rainstorm, revealing a woman in a white lab coat standing behind, eyes frantic. Dropping her clipboard she darted for the door and disappeared out of sight.
‘Wait,’ I said following her. ‘Where the hell am I?’
In the hallway, I stopped to catch my breath. The woman was nowhere in sight. Putting my hands to my chest I could feel my heart beating double time. The feeling of anxiety was refusing to bugger off. Taking hold of the railing next to me, the lights flickered. Sparks burst and lights shattered above my head. Shielding myself with my hands, I waited for the glass to settle. In the silence, memories of brain surgery, blood and pain threatened to overwhelm me.
A woman’s voice further down the hallway brought me back.
My breath hitched. Unsure of whether to run towards or away from the voice, I waited in silence, biting my nails.
‘Cassandra, control it,’ she said. Again, the woman was further away. Running down the hall, I looked for any door or window as a possible escape route. There was nothing but corridors, flickering lights and more corridors. Then I saw her. The same tall woman from behind the mirror with pulled back hair, fumbling with what seemed to be a key card. Moments later, the woman glanced at me before exiting through a door across the hall. Catching the door before it shut, I followed close behind entering a garden. Stopping in my tracks I looked up to the winter sun, squinting. The wind was blowing against me, overpowering my nostrils with smells I’d imagined time and time again; grass, flowers, trees, even mud. The garden continued for miles but most of it was blocked by a tall stone wall. I ran down the spiralling staircase grinning like a clown and kicked off my boots to feel the grass between my toes. Freedom.
Following the path of snow drops, the sound of trickling water emerged a few seconds before a marble fountain came into view. Enchanted by the water’s lullaby, I sat on the bank feeling tranquil unable to hold back from dipping my fingers in the water. A tickling sensation warmed my body, spreading back down through my fingertips into the water. The fountain spray froze in the air creating a magnificent ice sculpture. Jumping back, I stumbled and fell to the floor, in shock. The moment my hands made contact with the earth, the snow drops around me transformed into glass sculptures of ice. The frost spread through the grass, into the trees and beyond. Looking further afield, the black haired woman stood near a door in the wall. Making eye contact she shouted, ‘Get it under control, Elemental or GreenCorp will be forced to dispose of you,’ she disappeared, closing the door behind her.
From feeling free to feeling trapped, this garden didn’t seem right. There was nowhere in the world like this. Sinking to the ground, I could taste salt as tears streaked down my cheeks. There was nothing I wanted more than to see my mother, but not like this. GreenCorp wouldn’t get a chance to kill me. Raising my hands to the sky, the hairs on my arms prickled with static. Without uttering a sound, winter was released from within. The over-clouding sky turned into blizzard conditions. It was a beautiful madness that I alone controlled. Darkness ripped their garden from its core, at my command.
Something strong tugged at my arm whispering in the storm, ‘Cassandra, get up.’
Like dropping off a cliff, I jolted awake blinking to focus. A red haired man was undoing restraints on my hands and feet. He pulled me up with one arm to a standing position, holding a gun towards the door with the other.
‘Who yare Wou’,’ I said, in what I would describe as a sophisticated toddler language. It did not sound like that inside my head.
‘The name’s Orion,’ he said looking towards me and then back to the door, smirking. ‘I followed them when I realised they were taking you here. I do this sort of thing all the time, no big deal.’
‘Fankooou,’ I said, laughing at the slurring of my words.
Orion looked at me again, his eyes wrinkled. ‘The drugs will wear off soon.’ Grabbing my legs, he threw me into fireman’s lift and ran out the door.
Atop Orion’s shoulder, I watched gunfire illuminate the floor through hazy vision. As dizziness set in, all I could do was close my eyes.
Jarring awake, I squinted adjusting to the brightness. ‘Holy crap. We’re outside…On the Earth,’ I said.
Slowing into a walk, Orion slid me off his shoulder, and held me steady. His face was all stubble, no beard.
‘We’re safe now,’ he said, gesturing me to follow as he walked on.
‘Hey,’ I said running in front him. ‘What the hell happened back there? Where are we going? Who are you and why were you following-.’
‘Whoa, whoa, whoa,’ he said kicking the dirt. ‘I’ll answer everything back at the shelter,’ then continued walking.
‘Shelter?’ I asked, catching up to meet his stride. But he didn’t respond. Instead he seemed focused on a point in the distance.
Looking around, there was nothing in sight but dirt and dust-filled ruins. So this is London? I thought.
‘My humble abode,’ Orion exclaimed, holding his arms out and walking around to the entrance smiling. The shelter consisted of a metal bunk bed, kitchenette, toilet, table and chairs. Impressive for something that wasn’t built by the military. Sitting on his bed, Orion pulled a crumpled book from under his blanket. ‘Look at this,’ he said. I read the title, ‘Molecular Science: Breaking the Boundaries of DNA, Written by Dr. Sheila Blackwater’. Taking the book, I skimmed through the pages until I came to a picture of a black haired woman looking through a microscope in a lab.
‘I think I know this woman,’ I said, passing the book back. ‘She killed my parents with those experiments. She almost killed me.’
I caught a glimpse of pain in Orion’s eyes as he turned away.
‘Blackwater killed a lot of people,’ he said as he put the book back under his pillow. ‘You’re not alone in this. The whole of GreenCorp needs to be brought to its knees. Blackwater’s will be the first head to be chopped off.’
Wrinkling my nose, I nodded in agreement.
‘Thanks…for getting me out of there. They must have drugged me with a hallucinogenic. I thought I had power over water,’ I said laughing.
Orion sat up looking worried. ‘They sedated you enough to conduct and complete the molecular bonding process. You may have been dreaming…but it was real alright.’
I was in shock. Orion stood up, putting his hands on my shoulders, but it doesn’t comfort me in any way.
‘You didn’t die Cassandra…You’re an Elemental,’ he said.
‘That word again, Elemental?’
‘You can help restore the Earth, but they would have you doing it from behind bars… They didn’t deserve you,’ he said, looking at me again.
Seeming to have paused in thought for a moment, Orion walked across the room grinning. ‘The way to improve is with practice,’ he said, opening the shelter door and running up the stairs.
Walking outside Orion stood no less than five metres away pointing to the ground. Kneeling down, I placed my hands in the dirt and tried to concentrate on the same cold feelings as before. A few minutes passed. I tried harder, holding my breath.
‘I don’t think it’s healthy to turn that shade of red,’ Orion said, standing next to me. Digging a small hole with his hands and stepping back again Orion crossed his arms. ‘Relax. Concentrate on bringing the water to the surface. Try creating a puddle.’
Thankful for the encouragement, I tried again, digging my fingers into the dirt. A tickle vibrated down my spine, into my palms and water pooled up to my wrists.
Orion ran over, shouting with joy. We splashed each other until we fell over laughing. After Orion got up and dusted himself off, he offered to help me up. The moment our hands met, my hand remaining on the ground pulsed, causing a geezer to blow up into the air from the puddle. We both stood staring at the geezer as it fell and showered us.
‘We’ve got a lot of training to do,’ said Orion, trying to hide a smile.
‘You think?’ I shoved him, smirking. We need a plan.’
During the next few months, Orion and I moved around London keeping an eye on GreenCorps activities. We watched them throw unviable candidates into pits to rot. Getting into violent scrapes and almost getting caught gave us a scare, so we went into hiding and trained, every day. As my powers grew stronger, my friendship with Orion was becoming impenetrable. Blackwater would pay for what she had done to us…to everyone. We had an explosive strategy up our sleeves to bring GreenCorp down to its knees.
* * *
‘Any last words?’ I ask, looking at my pitiful biological mother.
Blackwater pouts her lips. ‘If you think killing me will stop the Elemental trials, you’re a lot more naïve than I thought,’ she says matching my gaze, no longer pitiful.
‘We don’t plan on stopping the trials,’ Orion says.
Placing my hands over Backwater’s skull, I feel the cool tingle making its way to my fingertips. Blackwater struggles against her ropes shouting, ‘Wait. Please…please. Wait. I’ll tell you what you want.’
Stepping back I gesture for Blackwater to continue, unimpressed by her last minute outcry.
‘They came for us a month after you were born. They wanted to put us through the tests, including you. I could not do it,’ she says. Shifting in her seat, she carries on. ‘GreenCorp disposed of your father then offered me a deal. As one of a few research scientists left, they asked me to work for them. In exchange, you would be taken back to The Bunker with a story of your rescue. I saved you,’ she says reaching out for my hand.
‘Liar,’ I shout, aiming my hands at the broken lab equipment, freezing them solid. ‘You saved no one but yourself. You’re not healing the Earth. You’re inflicting more harm by killing people who can help it.’
Before she can plead further, I touch my finger to her face sealing her lips closed. She struggles yet again, shivering as her eyes are tearing up. Orion walks to the other side of the lab, as planned.
Taking a deep breath, I position my fingertips facing Blackwater. ‘Disposing of you will be a start to healing the Earth,’ I say. A lightening shock rolls up my spine, down though my hands, bursting out of my fingertips. The ice spreads around her body, encapsulating Blackwater from the inside out. She muffles a scream, breathing panicked shallow breaths, but it’s too late. All becomes silent as I watch her eyes glaze over. If there’s going to be a monster in my life, it’s going to be me.
‘Do it,’ I say looking to Orion.
Without hesitation, he points his gun at the ice sculpture and pulls the trigger.
© 2015, Daniella May Little, All Rights Reserved.