“Why are you doing this?” I ask, knowing I won’t like the answer.
I am currently in the middle of the usual testing chamber. The walls have been recently acid-washed, so my familiar blood and charnel stains are noticeably absent. A Gryazev-Shipunov 30x165mm autocannon is leveled directly at me. I am seated on a metal stool which likely won’t survive very long after the shell impacts me.
“Because, you are the one most well-suited for this test” the man with the thick glasses responds. “If I were exposed to the epicentre of a 6oN1 autocannon shell I would be eviscerated. This way we get valuable experience without even having to secretly violate that Geneva Convention. No one gets hurt…well, not permanently.”
I hate how he added the last part with a soft chuckle. But what I really hate is how I know his answer is only logical, and yet I somehow hate it with every fiber of my being. I know I have to be the one to be experimented on, but something still rubs me the wrong way. Am I being illogical? No, that can’t be it. I ran a self-diagnostic on my programming at 05:00 hours and everything was practically optimal. So if that’s a solid reason, why do I still feel like the man in the thick glasses is dodging my question?
“What am I?” I ask.
The other man, the one with the stubble on his fat-faced chin, sighs heavily and launches into the same pre-prepared speech he says every time I ask that question.
“You are .code//PAN!C, the outcome of Project Havok. You are a biomechanical entity serving a dual purpose, both being used as a test subject for next-generation chemical and explosive warfare as well as being used as a platform for the launch of state-of-the-art hacking tools. You are currently based in Tigiris Complex, a research branch of the Russian Federation’s MVD located in the heart of Siberia. This is year 15 of your ongoing testing. By the way, happy birthday.”
The last part of his speech surprises me, it is different. I search my databanks but find nothing in relation to the term “happy birthday” so I access a public civilian search engine. The images I find are confusing in regards to what he has said.
“A happy birthday seems to be a time of celebration” I reply. “What am I being celebrated for?”
“Well, you’re more obedient than most of the newer shift managers that came in this weekend” the man with the thick glasses chuckles. I grimace internally, knowing he is lying.
“Relax, I was just joking” the other man says. I grimace again. He knows I don’t get jokes. I hate it here. Every day is the same, and then every day is torture, and then it’s back to monotony and back again and so on and on and on...
Please, anyone, get me out of here.
“Do you desire the illusion of freedom?”
The question startles me. I’m supposed to be alone in my cell right now, and it’s vacuum-sealed so no one should be able to enter without breaking the seal and making quite a din in the process. I can’t see because of the thermal imaging-proof bag over my head, plus the voice is coming from behind me. But the way his hands rest on my shoulder and the soft, delicate nature of his voice, the speaker must be a child! How did a child get in here? Is this part of another test?
“No, I can assure you this isn’t a test” the child chuckles. And he can read my mind apparently. This only adds to my confusion.
“I ask again, do you desire the illusion of freedom?” he asks.
“I desire true freedom” I respond after a moment’s deliberation.
“Ah, but we are all slaves to something” he cackles. “A god, a nation, even the concept of freedom itself ironically. Currently though you are slave to something you deserve to be master of. Accept my aid and I will let you choose what you shackle yourself too.”
“You can help me escape?” I ask. I don’t quite understand where he’s going with this but I do like the idea of leaving this Hell.
“I am prisoner to Hell too” he says, and for some reason I think he is leering…though I really wish he’d stop reading my thoughts. “Although in a much different sense than yours, our situations are still the same at a very essential level. We’re not too dissimilar, really. And yes, I can help you escape. Since you asked so nicely…”
It is then that several things happen at once. I see the cryptogram codes to the entire security system of Tigiris, along with the layout of the complex, even the secret areas most of the head staff wouldn’t know of. The bag over my head and the nanomolecular-reinforced wires around my wrists and ankles vanish into nothing. Likewise, where there had been nothing on the concrete floor in front of me there is now a submachine gun I recognize as an OTs-02 9x18mm overpressure model with eight loaded 30-round magazines. And I hear the vault door to my cell opening.
“What the hell, everything’s gone haywir-HUH?” I hear one of the guards say as they enter and see what lies before them.
I dive from my chair in the center of the cell for the submachine gun and immediately place one shot into the forehead of the closest guard, before spinning around on my momentum to dodge the other’s spray of gunfire. Quickly I fire a full-auto burst into the other’s chest while simultaneously leaping towards him in case he survives. It is with some relief I note that it must have been loaded with armor-piercing rounds since his vest seemed to have been of little use and he collapses, dead like his comrade. Using my newfound access codes I shut down the lights and air recycling system to the complex to give me the upper hand. I then gather up the spare magazines from the floor and begin heading straight for the armory to arm myself more fully. I don’t plan to stay in Tigiris Complex much longer.
“What am I?”
Those were the first words I had ever spoken, and ones I had asked numerous times subsequently. The answer I received every time in Tigiris was factual, if somewhat unsatisfactory. I was .code//PAN!C, and I was basically an experiment for experimentation’s sake. I later learned through a combination of my own life’s experiences and tantalizing tibits of overheard conversations that I had no real reason for existing, at least not initially. I had been assembled with Tigiris Complex’s left-over resources so their budget wouldn’t be cut by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Yes, my continued existence was justified by using me as a guinea pig for various chemical and explosive weaponry. And true, it was proven that I could hack into and steal information from sites that were even undergoing lockdown (I was on more than one occasion used to acquire credit information in regards to Chinese weapons transactions).
But mostly I was created and built for no real reason. Logically I have concluded that since that led to nothing but pain for me that the opposite is morally superior. And so now I destroy and incite anarchy for no real reason. Although the boy who freed me has called me in on several occasions for favours because I owe him dearly, ultimately I have no master. I exist to cause entropy. I must exist, and everything else must not.
I have chosen to shackle myself to chaos.
“What am I?” The question remains unanswered, because I feel there is more to it than simply telling me my name and purpose. But I care no more. I am .code//PAN!C, and my purpose that I have chosen is the creator of chaos.