Chapter 22: Terms and Conditions
The lift doors open to Dale’s lab. I witness a humongous, never ending grey themed laboratory with highly advanced technology spacing out over hundreds of square feet; literally. This place looked like at least fifty scientists could fit in here to work at independent lab stations.
Serge and Dale exit the lift first while I trail behind them. They head straight over to a high standing metallic table and a single high stool seat. They both stand back and nod at me while their hands point towards the seat… which I assume is for me.
I head straight through them and sit reluctantly, my eyes skittish as I take in all the laboratory equipment apprehensively.
“I don’t s-suppose you’re about to open me up for experimental purposes,” I speak, my voice trembling as I wonder what Dale and Serge had planned for me.
“No, kitten,” Dale shakes his head, growling as he explains, “I’m going to make you some clothes resistant to your nails and hair… I just need a blood sample. Serge, go check on the others, if they’re awake, incinerate the bodies of Karla and Mishka before STRIKE starts to stink and alert their families of their fate,” Dale speaks without emotion while Serge shrugs but hesitates as he narrows his eyes at me.
“Don’t get too comfortable, doll,” Serge warns.
“I thought I was welcome –”
“You are, doll, but I wasn’t talking about being welcomed. I was talking about relaxing while around us. You’re going to see some nasty stuff working by our side,” Serge adds in for extra warning, his tone dropping as he considers then decides to add, “…death is the least gruesome thing you may witness.”
“I watched James gurgle his last breath and heard Kyle’s every whimper before he also succumbed to his gunshot wound –” I try to stick up for myself but Serge abruptly cuts me off by slicing his hand through the air.
“Not just deaths, doll. Murder. You’re also a runaway patient from the Preventative Care unit; and no one escapes that place. Dale and I have only ever taken one other patient from their extremely fortified building.”
“Not now, lightening,” Dale interrupts, “Go wake the others, get those bodies sorted.”
“You’re all weapons,” I mutter, as I watch Serge turn and head off without a goodbye, “Weapons with sass and quite a bit to say in terms of funny banter.”
“They’ll never recreate anyone like us again,” Dale stands next to me while he prepares a needle to take a sample of blood. I just watch on nervously as he calmly does so.
“You’d think they’d keep trying, considering that I was apparently the last lot of experimental subjects… after you four were made… STRIKE? Why are you called STRIKE anyway?” I ask, curious.
“That was the name of our government assigned cover, when we would be deployed to work for them. Let’s just say – what they wanted – didn’t happen. Also, the government is trying to develop even more advanced humans but nothing will succeed us, as the next lot of human weapons are having emotions phased out of their genetics. The scientists believe that will help them act like obedient robots, but it also means they’ll have an extreme lack of empathy; if none at all. That equals an extreme underestimation of human ability… if anything, the next lot of experiments will all fail and be completely useless,” Dale grabs my wrist and pulls my arm out onto the table, positioning the needle above my skin without penetrating, “Kitten. Look. You may as well. What is the point of averting your eyes? It’s going in… either way.”
“That’s one messed up thought but… regrettably true,” I admit, sighing. I then turn, slowly after considering his words. I suck up my small amount of fear and decide to indeed watch as he plunges in the needle. I find it hard to watch, but also extremely intriguing. The pain is no worse than it usually is.
“Brave,” Dale smirks as he catches my gaze. I watch his tyrian purple eyes sparkle with humour, “…enlighten me, kitten. Tell me something about yourself that I don’t already know.”
“Okay…” I sit back as he finally takes out the needle, presses on a white cloth and I apply the pressure as he backs off and heads to a machine close by. It was a 3D printer, “You’re not making a suit from my blood are you…?” I ask, inquisitively as he pours the liquid into the machine.
“A liquid suit? No,” he scoffs and doesn’t bother to turn and face me as he adds, “You’re avoiding the question.”
“Something new about myself?” my brain can’t even think straight, as I’m rather filled with corresponding questions of why exactly he wanted to know anything personal about me.
What did Dale have to gain in getting to know me better on that level?
Up until this moment I assumed we were like work buddies with future benefits.
Friends? Maybe. I wasn’t too sure what our definitive label was though.
Dale is typing into the control panel of the square box machine and I know he is getting impatient for my response.
“I thought of something,” I blurt out, “The girls in high school use to worry about… boys. The drama I overheard use to drive me insane. I never cared too much about the fact I got to date the best football player… uh… that didn’t last long, but, all the girls cared and –”
“I thought you were a virgin?” Dale asks, dramatically turning from the machine and leaning back on it with his arms crossed over his chest. He towers over the large machine behind him as his eyes lazily travel over me, judging.
“Let me finish, boss,” I tilt my head to the side, tapping my fingers on the metal table, “You interrupted.”
“You have my sincere apology,” Dale couldn’t sound anymore apathetic but I just ignore him and stare at my sharp nails dancing along the metal and providing the polished surface with little indents.
“All the girls were so jealous, even though my date with Lincoln lasted an hour. When my nails cut his hand as he tried to hold mine… well, he didn’t want anything to do with me… even though it was an accident. The point I’m getting to, is that I never really put that much emphasis on boys, like my classmates. My number one priority was very different,” I speak quietly to myself as I reminiscence, “It’s how I live life now.”
“How?” he asks, also quietly, intensely interested for my elaboration.
“Survival,” I look up and decide to brave the intensity of his purple irises, “Surviving everything. People’s judgement. The looks, the whispers, the rejection of my beauty. I had nothing… and being isolated from social groups made me feel like a freak… even though everyone else was one too,” I shrug my shoulders, “I want to beat them, all of them, at the game of survival and becoming successful. I want to show them I’m worth more than just gossip.”
“The reason behind your treatment is not because of anything you lack, rather what they all lack in comparison to you,” he raises an eyebrow when he can tell I instantly don’t believe him, “You don’t trust me when I say you were grown in a lab.”
“No,” I shake my head, “I don’t believe it. I’m not special.”
“You’re better. You’re made to be better. All the other kid’s abilities are completely random, useless mutations. Some ugly. Some weird. Some completely strange with no definable purpose…” Dale looks me over once more and meets my eyes yet again, “You have a purpose.”
“Yes. I was made for scientific advancement, apparently,” I shrug and stand off my stool, “I don’t like that thought, it makes me feel like my life is a lie and my life has no proper purpose.”
“No purpose? No reason? I’ve given you four reasons to help you consider that your life has value,” Dale cuts off all my denials with a dead serious tone.
“STRIKE?” I ask, quietly, “My purpose is to please you all? I have a question, Dale, how do you sleep at night?”
“Interesting that you’d ask. My answer would be rough, like last night, we drink to sleep after everything we’ve seen and done…” he shrugs and then he adds, “Don’t discount the role I’ve given you. You bring light, fun, and positivity back into our lives. Happiness is important, especially for ravaged beasts,” he looks at his own nails, and I bet he is admiring how perfect every part of him is designed to be.
“Why don’t you all just get girlfriends or something?” I ask, not that I wanted that to happen, but it was clearly an option.
“Not an option,” he shakes his head, reading my thoughts, “We have each other for life, everyone else doesn’t… fit in.”
“But I’m the first female?” I add, “To stay – I mean – long term. Yet, I find it hard to believe all this sometimes. There has to be more reason for you keeping me around, besides all your ‘beastly’ needs.”
“Don’t over-evaluate your importance with us, Alyssa,” Dale straightens up as the machine behind him pings its completion, “We were made to survive without you.”
“That’s reassuring,” I murmur sarcastically as he turns to face the 3D printer. A metal latch slides open and a white opaque suit comes rolling out.
“Here you go, sweet pea,” he turns and walks over to lay out the fabric on the table before me, “No sleeves, it’s basically a leotard. It will provide you with easy movement.”
“…and give me a permanent wedgy, no doubt,” I whisper, looking over the semi see-through material, “Of course you’ll be able to see my tits through this.”
“I don’t think any of us will complain, kitten,” Dale takes a step closer to me until his large superior form is blocking me in on my stool, to stop me from jumping off and walking away.
Not that I had anywhere to walk to.
But perhaps he could feel my gathering nerves and need to potentially leave my stool to explore, to clear my head… of certain thoughts… like…
“A whore,” I whisper, “That’s all you want me to really be… and you tried to make me believe beauty has power.”
“Some of the greatest wars in our histories, have been started from men fighting over beautiful women,” his hands reach forward towards the laces on my corset, done up at the front. I lean my elbows back on the table behind me, poking my tits out provocatively as he starts to undo my top.
I let him.
I was eagerly curious to try out my new outfit.
“Sounds like Serge is right, I’ll end up a distraction and a liability,” I point out, while Dale’s eyes don’t leave mine for a second. His hands know how to undo the laces as if he’s done it a thousand times before.
“Without women, we are nothing,” Dale pulls the last strap from my corset and it slowly peels back, exposing my bare chest.
“And without men… women would be bored,” I sit up and grab his hands to try and stop their impending approach to my breasts. He is shocked momentarily into silence as I hold them between us and stare up into his tyrian purple eyes, “Perhaps you won’t end up using me. Perhaps I’ll end up using you… to further my own pleasure.”
“Something tells me that’s an indirect reference to my other lifestyle,” he smirks and takes his hands from mine forcefully. I also smirk, mistakenly believing he is about to back up and laugh about our funny chat.
However, I don’t expect him to take my challenge so seriously.
One hand strikes out and grabs my chin, his grasp controlling me so I do not look away.
“You lied to me, Alyssa. About your agenda being survival, about not being interested in boys like the other girls in school,” his smile is dashed from his face as he speaks to me with his most authoritative tone. Which is no less terrifying.
“I didn’t lie –”
“Don’t speak, kitten,” he warns, “I’m. Very. Serious. I will break you, if you tempt me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I quickly blurt, trying to jerk from his grasp suddenly, to no avail. He simply tightens his grip so I can’t get out of it.
“Let me explain further, then. If you tempt me to master you, I will, in every way,” I don’t know how he has managed not to blink in so long, but it just adds to his powerful statements.
“BDSM,” I mention.
“No,” he shakes his head, “BDSM is safe. People assume and put too much emphasis on what I, specifically, indulge in. But I only indulge in what satisfies me. And the way I master people isn’t always safe. It’s total. It’s complete. It’s something every female I have ever tried it with; has broken under.”
“Broken?” I ask, just as he lets me go and I jump to my feet, “I can do the rest from here,” I feebly try to change the subject as I start to pull down my jeans so I can put on my new outfit.
“They all fall in love with me,” he admits, “They become mindless, weak… clingy. Things I distaste.”
“I’m not sure what I’m to make of everything you’re saying,” I speak calmly as I grab the outfit and he continues to watch me as I prod it with my nails to test its strength. It doesn’t break and the whole time I avoid his gaze, “But you’re the first man in history to ever compare falling in love… with breaking someone. You did spend most of your time in a lab, I shouldn’t be surprised. Never the less, you don’t have to worry about me falling in love with you… leopard man… that would be – gosh – that would be some form of bestiality.”
Somehow, my dark humour causes Dale to chuckle.
But I do not.
I simply slip on my leotard and pull back my red hair, with confident hands, pushing it behind my shoulders.
“You’ll be on your knees eventually, either way, Alyssa,” he cocks an eyebrow at me and I lick my lips.
I think of what to say and I work it out perfectly.
“If you fall in love with me, Dale,” I retort, “I won’t blame you. I’m the most beautiful woman in the world… your words, not mine.”
“So, you are a good listener,” he smirks and I nod, before I spin around to show off my leotard he created for me.
“How do I look?” I ask, my tone a bit tight as I hold in all my true emotions.
Dale can’t answer, however, as there is a familiar wheeze from the lift doors close by as they slide open.
We have company.
“Karla and Mishka?” Dale instantly asks as Serge, Jose and Ace come out of the lift and slowly approach our position.
“Burnt to ashes,” Jose answers, wide eyed as he looks over me, “My god, you look like a goddess.”
“Thank you, Jose,” I smile and glance at Serge and Ace. Ace is gawking. Serge is glaring his appreciation.
“We actually have a girl on the team, it’s actually happened,” Serge murmurs, still in shock.
“Get over it, lightening,” I roll my eyes and he scoffs in response, but only half-heartedly, “What’s the plan for today, boys?”
“Nothing, sweet pea. Mondays we relax,” Dale shrugs and takes a step forward, “We do what we like.”
“I’m starting to notice, you’re all together, always, all the time,” I point out.
“Now, she regrets her union with us,” Serge rolls his eyes, guessing what the slight fear under my tone was hinting at.
“I certainly don’t regret it,” Jose murmurs while Ace finally remembers how to talk. He coughs to clear his throat and takes a step forward, offering me a hand.
“Dear, kitten,” Ace’s eyes sparkle, “Would you take my hand?”
“If you get cut –”
“I like a bit of pain,” Ace smirks and his eyes sparkle with evil intent for a moment, almost dropping the gentlemanly façade, “The question is… do you, Alyssa?”
“Well, uh,” I blush as I take his hand and think of what to say when all their eyes stay focused upon me. They were all hinting, I believed, at the reason for my presence here, “I’m a little confused. What do you do on your days off?”
“Beasts have needs,” Dale adds, commanding the group as he tells me, “Otherwise, with no release, we can all become a bit aggressive – rough – something you’d like, kitten, at least I’d assume so.”
“Why would you assume that?” I ask, mortified by his choice of words.
“He’s just teasing,” Ace tries to sooth the look in my eyes as Dale backs off towards the lift and we all follow, “… mostly.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better, Ace,” I turn to him as he holds my hand tightly while avoiding my nails.
“Do you trust us not to hurt you?” he asks, quizzically.
“Strangely enough… I do,” I wait for a proper calming statement, now, very ready for something more reassuring to be said by any one of them.
However, Ace can’t contain his evil smirk.
“Well that’s your first mistake, Alyssa,” he laughs and the others join in, “I can guarantee you’ll probably get hurt… at least… um… a bit.”
“Thank you for consoling me,” I respond, snapping, my voice dripping with sarcasm. We all pack into the lift, and the doors close as Ace continues to hold my hand.
Serge glares at Ace while Jose watches me with unbelieving eyes and Dale simply assesses the interactions.
“Watch your back, doll,” this time it’s Jose who calls me ‘doll’, “That one always acts the angel,” he nods at Ace, “but he’s far from it.”
“Thanks for the warning,” I steal my hand from Ace’s grip and he rolls his shoulders back and cracks his knuckles as he glares at Jose.
“You know how gentle my touch is –” Ace’s hair stands on end as Serge hits him with unexpected lightening and Ace simply shakes like a dog, grinning.
“Oh yeah, baby, hit me again,” he provokes Serge into electrocuting him twice.
“I think you’re all crazy,” I murmur, stepping back from Ace and looking at him like he’s a lunatic.
“None of us are angels,” Dale growls in a warning, while I catch his gaze with my own raised brows.
“Yet, someone has to be the nicest. Whom would you lot appoint as the kindest member of STRIKE?” I ask out of the blur but also curiously.
I’m surprised where all the fingers instantly point.
“Are you serious?” I gasp, shock evident on all my facial features.
Everyone tries to keep a serious look to respond to me similarly. However, they all burst out laughing moments later at my continued gaping jaw while my eyes pop out of my head.
“We were joking, doll,” Ace whispers in my ear eventually and I slap his arm and glare at all of them.
“That’s so funny!” I have to resort to sarcasm again plus I roll my eyes for good measure.
“You didn’t really believe them, did you, doll?” Serge asks, glaring back at me. However, I nod and shrug to admit I believed them at least for a moment, “What the fuck am I doing wrong then?”
“Only one thing you did wrong. You didn’t shock Ace a third time,” I reply, slyly, as I glance at Ace. The smirk suddenly disappears from his face and reappears on Serge’s.
“You’re right, doll,” Serge snaps some electricity at Ace’s groin and we all hear him squeak.
Now I am the one laughing, my eyes sparkling as the lift grinds to a halt and Ace eventually composes himself.
“Oh, kitten,” Ace glares at the ground as he tries to keep the extreme pain out of his facial features, “…you’re gonna regret that.”
And I know, despite it coming from Ace, that it’s a real threat.
Dale meant it when he said none of them were angels.
And now, I watch as the lift doors once again, open up to reveal a new level.
My gaze drowns in the large room that it has revealed – another lounge – this one slightly different.
This dark themed place oozed sex… and that is the most accurate, short description my brain can provide in this moment of realisation.
Because, suddenly, what was to happen next was all too clear…and my heart starts racing.
It was time for me to face Dale’s terms and conditions.