3.3: Time Is Ours, Not Theirs

The lights in Tameri’s room blazed so brightly when cut on remotely that they maintained a one hundred percent success rate for forcing the teenager awake. The wiring throughout the compound made it so lights could be made brighter in any room at a moment’s notice. Tameri’s phantom powers were useless as a defense for her sensory organs, mainly her eyes and ears. Bright lights and loud noises served as the vehicles for how her parents- her doctors- manipulated her. Even knowing her parents would blare alarms through her room speakers if she stayed in bed, she refused to cooperate with them further.

     As expected, a high-pitched wail rang in stereo from the speakers in the corners of the high ceiling, out of her reach to destroy, even with her bed stood up vertically. Tameri stayed as rigid as a log as the alarm got louder and louder, unwilling to show any reaction. She was careful to never look into the camera recording from above her door. She recited her mantra, the only guide she had when confined for days on end.

     I am without weakness. They will not break and reshape me. I am without weakness. They will not break and reshape me. I am without weakness. They will not break and reshape me. I–

     The alarm quieted.

     Tameri turned curiously when her room door opened. Since her last refusal, her doctors decided to keep their distance. The very power they created in her made her a lethal weapon, spadroon on hand or not, and it made it impossible for recistene patches to be applied.

     A round, porous device was tossed inside and the door was slammed shut. Blue gas was ejected from the device and filled the room in seconds. Tameri reached for her bed sheet to cover her nose and mouth, but the lights flared suddenly, blinding and disorienting the teenager. Her coughing spell added to her befuddlement, then was seized by several people at once. She tried to activate her powers to escape, only to come to a diabolical conclusion.

     The blue gas was aerosolized recistene. Her doctors found a way to force weakness upon her. With so many hands on her, she’s restrained quickly. A mask is fastened over her face before she’s dragged from the room.

     Whatever they just put on me was a priority. It must be how they intend to make me participate in their experiments. I’ll have to pay attention to how it works.

     Tameri stopped fighting to escape after realizing the potency of the aerosolized recistene. Her powers would be muted long enough for her to be brought to her par- doctors’ staging ground. To their surgical suite.

     Being escorted away from that area is a man in his 30s. He’s covered in freshly stitched wounds but he hid pain behind eyes hot with hate. They softened only minutely the second he looked at Tameri. The man, Jojen, was her next-door neighbor. On occasion, his rage was the noise that woke her. His steel shield was in the possession of his escorts but a recistene patch was still in his arm as a precaution.

     Tameri found it impossible to express her rage as he did, but she admired his undying challenge against their doctors. With a basic one-to-one comparison of their genetics: his dark eyes to her blue eyes, his stout build versus her 6’3”, and his almond skin in contrast to her rose beige, she determined he wasn’t born into this like she was. If not for the presence of outside patients like him, she’d never have learned to hate her life.

     “Hi,” she said to Jojen, stunning herself by breaking her silence so casually.

     Jojen was also stunned by the greeting so much so that he gave her another look. He grunted and jerked his head to his right. “These lights suck,” he said irritably.

     Tameri wanted to laugh at the absurdity of their brief interaction but one unintended outburst was enough. She was able to keep pace with her escorts even with her eyes on the floor. She knew the layout of the compound better than the inside of her eyelids lately, a credit she hated giving to her parents’ electrical infrastructure.

     The surgical suite is even more blinding than her room and the halls, the light bouncing off the sterile white walls and ceiling. A pair of raven-haired doctors with eyes the shade of sapphire stand at the sides of a chair with shackle attachments and a sliding table affixed to the right arm. Her mother, the doctor holding onto her spadroon, waved a hand to the chair.

     If I don’t move, they’ll just make me. I should take this time to think of how to get my spadroon back.

     Tameri sat obediently. Her ankles were locked down first, her arms shackled to the sliding table, her waist restrained last. She eyed the stand covered in numerous invasive medical instruments, now aware her time would be spent similar to how Jojen’s was.

     “Tameri,” her father said, the doctor beside the instrument stand. “Are you going to cooperate today?”

     Tameri ignored him, though she turned when a window opened far to her left. Half a dozen shadows moved into arranged seating.

     “I see. Well, before we start that little game again, look at this.” He held up a small remote and the blue button in the center glowed when pressed. “Are you going to cooperate today?”

     Her answer didn’t change.

     “Very well then.”

     Her father plunged a scalpel pilfered from the instrument stand straight through the back of her hand. Tameri didn’t scream but she saw the attack coming and activated her–

     This mask!

     “That’s right,” her father taunted as she expressed recognition of her predicament. “The crude device we poisoned you with earlier was just to get you here. The mask on your face will infect you with odorless recistene gas every time I press this button.” He wiggles the single-button remote. “We have a job to do today, and you’ll help or suffer.”

     “Your powers have been active long enough now that you can use them at will. The organization funding our research is here for a progress report. You will show them that our work has been brilliant,” her mother said, then gestured to the room full of shadowy figures.

     So, no powers from me means no more funding? No. Something else is afoot here.

     Her father whispered, “Don’t think for a second this makes you more useful to us. Now that we know your powers work, I will use this time to carve as many cells from you to save the blueprints for your powers and then let those gentlemen have you till they grow bored. Those men find death entertaining. If you don’t entertain them, then they’ll take care of it themselves. Unless you cooperate. Choose now, choose fast, and choose wisely.”

     Tameri winced when the scalpel was yanked from her flesh. The next few cuts came before she had access to her powers again, no doubt for material for her parents to recreate her powers if need be. She wanted to be cold and calculating, to avoid pain and misery, but her interaction with Jojen infected her more than the recistene had. She didn’t cooperate until the pain became unbearable.

     She was thrown back into her room without even the luxury of being given stitches to close the litany of cuts and incisions around her body. She didn’t care. Tameri had a tantrum fifteen years in the making. She destroyed her bed first, then broke out the lights. She was so mad that she didn’t want to see the destruction afterward, to the room and herself. Her wounds burned with every movement, but she welcomed the pain to strengthen her resolve. Her pa- doctors bred her to be a destructive force of nature, an assassin. She didn’t wish to acknowledge how effective she could be, but now was the time to do just that. She wanted freedom and she was going to achieve it at all costs.

     With her moves now undetectable with the lights out, Tameri made her first move by removing the junction boxes in the walls that provided the lights the extra juice they needed to burn brighter. She used her intangibility to slip inside the walls. Her knowledge of the compound, from the surgical suite to the north, biochemical lab to the west, doctors’ quarters to the southwest, patients cells in the east with her, and the cell sample lab in the south, was critical. In case of a fire, her doctors would secure the southern wing first. That’s where the DNA they collected from her would be stored. As they made it clear, she’s second now…

     If I rank at all.

     Tameri shook her head and continued her quest. Her fingernails buzzed as she coated them with cobalt light and frayed the wires connected to every junction box she came across, minus the ones in the east wing of the compound. She wasn’t sure if she could escape, but she’d give the other patients that chance regardless. She frayed the wiring around the cell sample lab last.

     The next time they reroute power to anyone’s room…BOOM! I’ll make my move then!

     Tameri scurried approximately eight feet away, down to the end of the hall connecting the cell sample lab at a ninety-degree angle to the biochemical lab, when the fire started with a bigger boom than she anticipated, blowing a hole in the wall. Alarms throughout the compound sounded immediately.

     Jojen was wrong after all. I’ll give that win to the lights all day!

     Tameri raced through the fire and into the cell sample lab. She pilfered the fire extinguisher and used it to smash random vials on her way back into the wall. She had one chance to do everything she wished to do and couldn’t afford to waste time.

     Tameri dumped the fire extinguisher behind the fire, knowing her parents would never brave that danger. It’s the main reason they never tested the phantom power on themselves. They were too scared of the pain such power would require to be inherited. Tameri glided formlessly into the chemical lab, using her knowledge of its layout to avoid phasing through any of the shelves of chemical vials. Her ability to glide through liquids was far from perfect and the growing fire had already attacked her surgical incisions.

     Tameri grabbed the most flammable chemicals she recognized and used them to create a path connecting the biochemical lab to the cell sample lab. As predicted, her doctors and their assistants were scurrying about to secure as many cell samples as possible. One of the assistants pointed her out and her parents couldn’t look angrier.

     “You! You did this!”

     “Are you mad? This is our life’s work!”

     “You will regret this your ungrateful child! We gave your power any other Ohaida would die for! Without it, you’d be just another run-of-the-mill orphan! But now, you’d be lucky to make it that far!” Her father wrested her spadroon from her mother’s possession and hurled it directly at Tameri.

     Tameri smirked, caught the blade by the blood-colored guard, and spoke to them one final time. “I am without weakness! You will not break and reshape me!” Tameri shattered the last chemical vials directly into the fire, a cocktail meant to transform the flames into napalm. The light from the explosion didn’t blind her and she was able to witness her doctors and their assistants burn. She strode into the cell sample lab, ready to cross off one of the non-negotiable conditions of her escape. She was merciful to the assistants, stabbing each through the heart to keep them from experiencing the full burning. Her parents, however, she watched as they writhed in pain, their blackened flesh peeling off on the floor. The roaring fire made her eyes shine violet as she allowed herself to finally laugh at Jojen.

     Despite the heat and joy at the closing of her dream, Tameri’s chill is potent throughout her entire body. She rises out of bed slowly. She uses her comb to eliminate every curl in her hair. She foregoes her harness and grabs her spadroon only. She looks to the coolers atop her bureau, layers of ice trapping their legs.

     No more counting. No more resets. I am who I am.

     Nary a detour keeps Tameri from her destination. She marches to the school’s front gate to resume her daily vigil. One more day remains until the promised invasion. The instigator stands just across the other side of the gate to Tameri. Her presence and Tameri’s feelings are both catalysts for the dream she had.

     Liamria will regret that. If I cannot be anything I choose to be, then I will be what I was made to be. An operative of the Ohaida Assassin Syndicate!

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