Subject K-7 huddled in the corner of his Room. A bloodied corpse lay at the opposite end of The Room, and blue gore coated the far wall. His latest conquest. His latest ‘victory.’ “Excellent work, K-7. As always, you shall be rewarded with rations.” The voice, “Mission,” came from outside The Room; funneled into it from devices embedded in its walls and ceiling. K-7 had lost count of how many ‘victories’ he had earned. His first was the most painful, but now all he felt afterwards was emptiness. The Mist began to flow into The Room, with sleep soon to follow. All he took comfort in was, when he awoke, he would finally have something to eat.

“K-7, your latest challenge is a Cosmic Panther. You remember your lessons on them, correct? The Room is not expansive enough to simulate their true capabilities, but this specimen is particularly fearsome. Its hostility is guaranteed. There is no use protesting this time.” K-7 understood well what Mission was referring to. Every previous attempt to resist killing other subjects in the room was met by the threat of starvation. Sometimes, he was lucky enough to believe he had killed directly in defense of his own life. Other times, the other subject didn’t want to fight any more than he did. Eventually, one or the other acquiesced. The Mist filtered in once again. Cosmic Panthers. He remembered his lessons on them, indeed. He thought them to be beautiful animals; his favorite animal in fact. He wanted to befriend one, to have a ‘pet.’ Not this time. Perhaps, not ever. No, he knew the events to follow. First comes The Mist, then The Restraints. Once both combatants are ready, The Restraints release. He drifted off to sleep, knowing that he would soon paint The Room with another creature’s life.

“K-7, I know you have killed others of our shared species before. Hunger is a powerful motivator, is it not? This next subject is not of Soldier Caste. When you kill her, keep in mind your lesson is not one of combat capabilities. Be strong, and kill. Learn the true lesson. We are building something grand here, and you are at the center of it all. Good luck, K-7.” When K-7 awoke, he saw a female of his own species, approximately of his own age. Her blue skin was beautiful, but not overly tender. Her musculature was well-defined, but not to the extent of his own. Too soft for Soldier Caste. Too hard for Saint Caste. A Serf Caste, then. It made sense to him. He only ever killed other Soldiers; Serfs rarely had the strength to make decent opponents. Saints were likely too well-protected or well-known for Mission to get his hands on. Her eyes rose to meet his. He expected a look of fear, or resignation. Instead, he saw a glare of pure strength and conviction. Interesting. Their Restraints released at the same time. He walked towards her, and she towards him. I just want to eat. I just want to live. Forgive me.

They stood together in the center, facing each other. He presented an imposing figure as he towered over her; tremendous height mixed with broad musculature, killing eyes, and the trademark shark-like teeth of his Caste. To her credit, she stood her ground. That look in her eyes never faded. He thought little of bravery in the context of combat. It never helped his victims. But this time, he felt his own fighting spirit waning as it met hers. A ridiculous thought. She was the first to speak. “What is your name?” The question confused him. Had they told her nothing? Many previous victims had revealed they knew of him as K-7. “I am Subject K-7, little one. One of us must die. Forgive me.” She sighed. “I don’t mean the title they gave you. I would like to know your name. Do you have one?” He thought for a moment. All he remembered was The Room. The Lessons. They told him he was meant for something grand. That soon the weight of all the lives he had taken would be given meaning. “No, I do not. It does not matter. Fight now, or I will.” Instead, she touched her chest, and something inside began to glow. “No, I will not. Neither will you. I am Vexxev, and I refuse violence in all its forms.” His own chest began to glow. She smiled at him. “Please… Resonate with me.”

“Subject K-7, Subject M-3, rations shall be withheld until you comply. You will die for nothing.” K-7 and Vexxev had learned to ignore Mission’s never-ending reminders. It had been two days since their initial meeting, and, though starving, K-7 felt more alive than he had ever been. “What is Resonance, Vexxev?” They had never stopped Resonating since that first moment; their glow shining in perfect harmony. “Heart-Resonance. It is how we truly share ourselves with each other.” K-7 felt something he had never quite felt before. An emotion he could not name. “What is a Heart?” Vexxev smiled at him. “A Heart is something precious. The core of our being as Cygni.” K-7 never smiled, but this time he attempted to. “Something precious? Then, I believe you are my Heart, Vexxev.” The look on her face turned, a blush on her blue skin. “A… anyway, I wanted to give you a name. It’s difficult not to call you anything, and I’ll never call you K-7. How about Grueeurg? It’s the name of a Hero who lives in the dark, but wordlessly protects those in the light. Just like you, my friend.” K-7 took her hand in his own. “If that is the name you wish for me, then it shall be my name until the end of time.” She blushed again. “You speak so dramatically, Grueeurg. But it is not unpleasant.” Grueeurg tilted his head. “I speak only what is in my mind. There is no time for obfuscation.” She laughed, a beautiful, lilting sound. “For all they’ve done, they could not break your spirit, nor erase your decency. We will not fight, Grueeurg. We’ll show them a different way. Our way.” She rested her head on his chest, and they both drifted off to sleep. A peaceful, gentle sleep, free of the The Mist.

“Subject K-7, Subject M-3, you are at the extreme biological limit of withdrawal. You shall both die soon if you do not comply. There is no purpose to your recalcitrance.” Grueeurg and Vexxev lay huddled together, both too weak to even stand. “Grue, he’s right. Only one of us can survive. It should be you, my friend.” Grueeurg struggled, but managed to shake his head. “No. Never. We’ll live or die together.” Vexxev propped herself up and looked directly into his eyes. “I have had a life my friend; a wonderful life full of memories. I have seen the stars and oceans; a world outside these walls. Your life has not even begun.” He shook his head again. "I said no, and I mean it. If I must, I’d rather I die for you.” She smiled, a sight he had come to love. “I’m just a Serf, my Soldier. You can change things. You can fight them. You must live on. If not for yourself, then in memory of all who have lost their lives to this.” Her voice quieted to a whisper. “Including me.” Realization dawned on Grueeurg. “Wait, please!” Her hand began to glow; she had more strength at this moment of withdrawal, simply due to her smaller size. He couldn’t even lift a single finger. She put her hand over her heart. “Goodbye, Grueeurg. Goodbye, my love.” He struggled in vain, unsuccessfully willing his body to move. “Wait, please…” Energy thrummed, then shot out of her hand, piercing her heart. They had been resonating since that first meeting. He felt her die, felt her life in one moment, then felt it gone the next. He could not lift a single finger. He did not have enough strength to even scream. But he felt the tears flowing from his eyes, and the pain of the emptiness that had now returned.

“Excellent work, Subject K-7. As always, you shall be rewarded with rations.” He died the day he lost his Heart. From then on, he no longer resisted. Every Subject they placed in front of him fell to his power. At one point, he thought he sensed a hint of disgust and fear in Mission’s voice. It seems even monsters have a limit to their brutality. I do not. Not anymore. This can’t be what she wanted. But I must live. I must fight. I am empty now. That is all I will ever be.

One day, Grueeurg heard screaming and explosions outside The Room. This was an oddity; every scream and explosion he heard before had been inside. The Room shook, and suddenly Mission’s voice filtered in. “Subject K-7, our facility is under attack! Use your training, kill the enemy!” A display appeared, showing the distinction between ‘allied’ and ‘enemy’ forces. The door opened. Grueeurg smiled. You fools. Yes, I shall kill the enemy. I’ll kill all of you.

He stood on a mountain of bodies. The other force regarded him with both horror and wonder. They seemed to just be glad he never attacked any of them. Eventually, they parted to allow a figure through. An officer of some kind. Or a noble. “Hold there. I am Avis Xyzzyyzzyx, of the Cygnan Empire. Who are you, that you fight against your own masters?” Grueeurg smiled at him, teeth stained with blue blood. “I have no masters. Not anymore.” Avis Xyzzyyzzyx nodded. His Heart began to glow. “If you would, I wish to Resonate with you. I wish to hear your story.” Grueeurg looked down at his Heart. It did not glow in time; its color dulled and burnt. “My apologies Avis, I have no Heart with which to Resonate. Merely a broken soul with which to Fracture.”

Cosmos (Grueeurg)
Spaceman (Xyzzyyzzyx)


Halcyon Days (The Perks Of Being A Paragon) SimonRed