The Red Sea, July 1187 CE...
Not a single person on the ship knew that he was Lord Raymond III of Tripoli. If it had been a war vessel, filled with other nobles and warriors of the Catholic Church, he’d have been recognized immediately. And then he’d have been asked why he was dressed now as a simple commoner, and why he wasn’t carrying his sword. But this ship comprised of merchants carrying spices and herbs to Asia, and thus the only question he had been asked on boarding the ship was if he could afford the dues.
He didn’t. He had nothing but his sword, which had been his father’s -- and his father’s father before him. He shamelessly traded it to board the ship.
Now he was at the stern on the upper deck, leaning against the bulkhead and braving the night’s chill with only the rags he was wearing. Perhaps he had felt that the cold would deaden his nerves as he had no money to get any sort of drink. So his mind ran far and wild, thinking thoughts that would get him hanged or burned at the stake if the clergy ever got wind of them.
The Catholic Church, supposedly the only means to achieve salvation before the afterlife was no more than a medium to further political interests to him. And Raymond would know, because as a Lord of a town he had been present in gatherings where decrees and other royal matters were discussed in secret circles, and it disgusted to put on that he wasn’t disgusted by the way the holy texts were twisted to justify a single man’s greed. He had endured the whole time because he had learned early on that it didn’t matter anyway. There was no problem in perverting the Word of God as long as the peasants were none the wiser.
Now traveling among such peasants he felt that regardless of their horrendous living conditions it was better to be a commoner than a nobleman because they always had an ironclad illusion to give meaning to their suffering. As long as they sincerely believed that another man was tortured and murdered for them then they would endure anything in the name of that person.
Raymond had been raised by the scriptures, and it would have been okay had his parents left it at that, but tradition saw to it that the nobles had the best comforts of life, including excellent education that would enable them to organize the cooperation of vast numbers of commoners, along with the relative freedom to pursue completely superficial interests.
Which meant a higher chance of coming across another person’s eccentricity and not be repulsed by it. Even if the common man or more fanatical noblemen would have condemned that eccentric fellow for heresy. One of such heretics had been Raymond’s companion for a very long time and had awakened his mind to very serious discrepancies regarding the Catholic faith.
Djimon had been an Ethiopian merchant. That, and the fact that he harbored the most radical thoughts was all Raymond had known about his strange friend, who had come into Raymond’s life when some misfortune with a cargo ship caused him to be stranded in the Levantine, and he had boarded for a time at the home of one of Raymond’s childhood friends in Jerusalem. Raymond’s father, Lord Raymond II, had been assassinated when his son was only nine and Raymond had spent several years there, enough for the royal palace to be a second home. Were it not for his secret meetings with Djimon Raymond knew that he would have turned out like any of the other boys at court, fanatically devoted to the illusions at court.
And that would have been better for him. He would have been a martyr of God by now along with all his brothers who were slaughtered on the battlefield yesterday by the infidel Saladin. He would have been on his way to the Kingdom of Heaven, not voyaging out into the unknown, his destination a vast abyss before him; dead to everyone he had left behind and less than human to everyone he would meet henceforth.
Staring out into this void, literally as it spread out as the Red Sea before his eyes, a shrill wind blew past. And he shivered.
Budapest, July 2019 CE...
When he went in for his fortnightly examination that night and found another doctor, he realized that he couldn’t fool himself any longer. Kyle was the name he was given in the facility where he had spent his entire life, and where he did not desire to spend one more day. Neither the new doctor nor the men monitoring the process through hidden cameras in the room saw him steal the scalpel. He left the medical wing and went straight to the library reserved for facility staff and personnel and into its bathroom. There he went into a stall and locked the door.
And sat down on the toilet seat and gripped his head in his hands with enough force to crush an inflated basketball. He wasn’t thinking -- there was nothing to think about. He was so far gone now, so completely enthralled by something so abstract yet so real. He couldn’t spend another day pretending to be fooled by the lies of the facility’s supervisors. He’d rather die. And it was coming to terms with this new decision that made him freeze.
The moment he put the plan into motion he had to either go through with it or be captured and executed.
Kyle pulled his hair until it hurt. Why was he doing this? What was so special about that woman that he would throw away his entire life for? And for God’s sake what if she was already dead? What if she hadn’t managed to escape but was captured and executed for psychologically corrupting her young patients? What if...
Kyle shook his head and took out a folded piece of paper from his pocket. It had notes on both sides, in her handwriting. He chuckled. Dalia was a fucking crazy woman. She had risked her life to put this single note where only he would find, and the fact that he had found it meant that none of the facility’s supervisors had found it first. On one side of the note, it read, “I’m leaving. If you’re a real warrior, come and find me”; and the other side said, “Nothing is real. They’ve been lying to you your entire life”.
Kyle took a deep breath and smelled her perfume from the note. He smiled. Fuck, she’d ruined him. He replaced the note into his pocket and took out the surgical blade. Then he steeled himself and went cold inside. It was time to work.
There was a camera at every corner in the toilet ceiling and these were his first targets. With fists that could dent steel and skin tougher than Kevlar weave Kyle drove his fists into and through the spots where the cameras were located. By the time he started with the scalpel right after he knew he had only half a minute before the place would be packed with heavily armed and armored security guards who wouldn’t hesitate to kill him if he tried to resist capture.
Kyle took off his shirt, then started to dig into the lower right of his back with the blade. He winced in pain, but something other than pain threatened to hamper his progress. Due to the bioengineering experimentation he’d been subjected to, along with his strength, speed, and toughness he also healed much faster than regular people. And that process was controlled subconsciously by his body: as soon as he sustained any serious injury a powerful anesthetic hormone would be flushed into his system to prevent him from moving too much and aggravating the injury further, as well as to heal the wound faster.
That meant that he started to grow drowsy as soon as he’d gone deep enough. He had to stop. If he continued like this, by the time he pulled out the tracking device they had implanted inside him he would be too weak to successfully fight his way out. He had to adjust his plans.
A few seconds later the guards smashed in the door but found the place empty.