“Our perspectives on life all come from the cage we’re held captive in.” – Shannon L. Alder
“You just couldn’t help yourself could you?” Seraph spoke mostly to himself. He was hardly audible over the dire cries of pain that reverberated within the walls of the training grounds. He stepped over the figure of a man rolling from side to side, both of his arms broken and his mouth bashed in to the point that the original shape of his face was indistinguishable. Rogue, dressed in all black combat gear and a thin, bulletproof vest, stared blankly into the face of the woman whose throat she held clenched in her talons. The female’s hand clawed at Rogue’s vice like grip while she gasped for air. Rogue’s vivid, yellow eyes rested unwavering on her prey, refusing to flinch even as Rogue fired two rounds into each of the crying woman’s legs. From point blank range, the rubber training rounds penetrated her flesh with ease. When she was finally released and sent sprawling onto the ground in a thick layer of her own blood, the woman stared up at Rogue’s impassive stare in agony.
“Why?” she moaned, squeezing her bleeding thighs. Rogue brandished a feral smirk.
“Because daddy said I couldn’t kill you,” Rogue knelt down and extended a limp hand toward her prey. The woman flinched heavily, quivering, as Rogue’s hand loomed closer and closer until it brushed against her face. “You have no idea how desperately I want to rip your body to pieces.”
A firm hand clasped itself around the pressingly insane blonde’s hand and yanked it away. Rogue growled loudly, swiping her palm to tear the throat from whoever had touched her, but as she tasted his color, the nanites fought back, paralyzing her hand millimeters from Seraph’s neck. He smiled coldly down at his daughter for a moment. Looking away, he took in the chaos that she had wrought upon his soldiers. Their beaten, dismembered and bleeding bodies that numbered a full score lay scattered about the once pure white room, now stained with dark, crimson red.
“It would appear that I underestimated your desire to find a loophole. I’ll have to be a bit more specific with your orders, wont I?” Seraph said gloomily. He pressed his hand to a small black device embedded in his ear. “Get medical down to the training facility. We have twenty units in critical condition. Be prepared for dismemberment, bludgeoning, facial mutilation and firearm wounds.”
“Did I hurt your toys? Guess they weren’t as dangerous as you thought, daddy?” Rogue pouted manically. Seraph swung his free hand like a mace into the side of Rogue’s face, knocking the woman from his grasp and sending her tumbling across the floor. Bending over, Seraph picked up a nearby telescoping nightstick and strode angrily toward the blonde woman that was picking herself up off of the ground.
“You look upset,” Rogue deduced, her tone dripping in sarcasm.
“Don’t move!” He snarled. Rogue’s body froze involuntarily and a burst of fear sparked through her chest. Finally realizing the danger she had entered, rationality swarmed her mind, however late it was. Seraph swung the steel weapon into Rogue’s thigh and again into her face as her leg buckled from pain. Rogue’s skull bounced off the ground and she gritted her teeth against the pain, refusing to give Seraph the satisfaction of hearing her cry out.
“Guess I found what buttons not to press,” Rogue grunted sarcastically. Seraph sighed haughtily and smoothed his hair back with his hand.
“I should have known it would be too soon to test you. Your mind is still damaged by the augmentation. Nevertheless, I will not tolerate this type of behavior from you,” Seraph lectured. He spun on his heel and lumbered toward the exit, his balled fists creating slight bulges in his pockets. “Come, let me show you to your room.”
Rogue pushed herself to her feet and staggered over the multitude of bodies. Some were unconscious, while others groaned and cried, their bodies savagely beaten beyond reason. Rogue grimaced at the damage she had wrought. She only remembered parts of it, flashes of memory through the black in which she felt a primal hunger and ferocity that terrified her.
“Azrael?” Rogue said to herself in a hushed, frightened whisper.
"We are." Rogue swiped frantically, as if flailing from some insect in her ear. When she looked in the direction of the sounds, nothing but white walls met her gaze. Rogue shuddered involuntarily as she reached for the door.
When the door behind her hummed closed, the groans of agony were cut off like a switch. Rogue sighed softly and padded up the sandpaper-lined staircase that led up the slender passage. She trailed Seraph’s color through the rows of gray lockers and finally located him pacing diligently to a door trimmed in red. Massive red letters emblazoned across its front read, “Authorized Personnel Only.”
“You, Nakir and myself are the only ones allowed through this door without explicit permission from either of us. And even then, those individuals are to be guided at all times. If anyone enters these premises without those prior rules, they are to be executed. Do you understand?” Seraph said over his shoulder. Rogue grunted her acknowledgement, earning a disgruntled flare in Seraph’s aura.
Through the door lay a massive entryway. On the far side of the room was an enormous window that easily stretched twenty feet across and ten feet in height. Through the more than likely bulletproof glass, Rogue stared in wonderment at tall Red Wood trees that stretched on for countless miles. She could hear the colors of the multitude of wildlife bustling about. Taste their fear, joy and pleasure as each went on, knowing nothing of the massive world around them. She tasted the sweet scent of their simplicity, and for a brief moment was calm. Even the tall, ancient trees thrummed with a slowly pulsing, translucent aura.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Seraph said quietly. Rogue turned her head to look up at the man standing beside her. He bore a soft smile on his lips as his eyes scanned the distant horizon. “Your mother always spoke of wanting to live in a forest. I understood why as soon as I came out here. When Nakir was old enough, the two of you would spend hours out there running rampant.” Seraph sighed and gestured with his hand toward the rest of the room, shattering the single moment of sincerity between them.
“This is our home. Nakir is out on operation at the moment, but she should be back in the next few hours if my assumptions are correct,” Seraph informed. Rogue looked from his hardened face to the colossal room before her. The walls, soft white, were lined with exquisite paintings. The thick beige carpet at the base of the three steps stretched across the fifty-foot floor and beneath the long white fabric couch, accompanied by matching white love seats on each side. An ornate black coffee table that sat low to the ground was decorated with only a single black coffee mug. Rogue could taste the cold, bitter liquid inside of it from where she stood across the room and the small residue of color where Seraph’s lips had been placed earlier in the day.
“Out killing innocent people?” Rogue stabbed, stepping down and dropping onto the end seat of the couch. She lifted her feet and placed her black combat boots onto the clean coffee table.
“An apropos statement coming from you, isn’t it?” Seraph quipped. He dismissed the argument with a wave of his hand. “She is checking on some of my men that haven’t returned. No doubt your friends intercepted them en route and slaughtered them. A nuisance that they will suffer for.”
Rogue snarled in return, unable to resist the animalistic fury that rose in her chest like a raging fire. Before that anger could develop into a stream of hateful curses, Rogue stiffened and looked toward the door to her. The resonating and almost childishly gleeful color of Nakir skipped closer and closer until she reached the door where the pixie like woman scanned her palm and entered with a smile plastered on her lips.
“Azzy!” Nakir sang. The tiny woman almost seemed to teleport to her sister, moving with speed close to that of Virus’. Nakir wrapped her arms around Rogue’s slender frame and buried her face into her sister’s neck. Startled, Rogue laid there with her dark haired sister atop of her, her arms splayed out to the side with her violet eyes wide open in shock.
“Hello,” Rogue said slowly. Nakir nuzzled Rogue with her nose softly and popped back onto her feet.
“I’m so glad you’re okay!” She smiled. Rogue couldn’t help the tilt of the corner of her lips at the small woman’s enthusiastic response.
“What’s the status on my men, Nakir?” Seraph interrupted. He stood with his hands placed behind his back and the light from the window ominously silhouetted his frame. Nakir’s color dimmed to dark blue immediately.
“Dead. All of them were killed, although the vehicles were left behind and burned. Father, what were those men doing out there?” Nakir questioned. Rogue’s ears perked at the question and waited curiously for Seraph to respond.
“I had them searching for a dangerous individual. He has knowledge that could severely harm us. Unfortunately, however, it would appear our enemies now have him under their custody,” Seraph answered. Rogue grinned broadly.
“I thought that you had everything under control? Perhaps if you weren’t such a coward, hiding in your rabbits hole, you could have protected the men you feign to care for,” Rogue insulted.
“Why do you have to be so cruel, Azrael?” Nakir spoke before Seraph and his flared orange aura could reply.
“Because your father is a monster and a coward,” Rogue said levelly, her yellow eyes boring unflinchingly into the black of Seraph’s.
“We are all subject to our own opinions,” Seraph muttered dejectedly.
“He only does what he has to do Az. To keep the world how it should be,” Nakir lectured softly. Rogue clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth and sat in silence.
“Nakir, now that you’re home, why don’t you guide your sister to her room? I’m sure there is much the two of you would like to catch up on,” Seraph offered. Rogue snorted and pressed herself into the soft couch. Nakir lit up immediately and smiled broadly at Rogue.
“Come on Az, there’s so much I want you to tell me,” Nakir beckoned, holding her hand out for Rogue to take. Rogue followed Nakir’s smiling black eyes down to the tips of the fingers attached to her outstretched hand with undisguised distrustingly.
“No,” Rogue stated dryly and shuffled off of the couch onto her feet. Nakir’s color bloomed with rejected sadness that failed to remain hidden by neither her color nor her downcast gaze.
“Oh, okay,” Rogue’s younger sibling mumbled. She turned and walked behind Rogue and through the single door leading to a hallway that branched to several bedrooms. The white door hummed shut behind Nakir and Seraph shifted irritably across the room.
“You’ve always made it difficult to treat you kindly,” Seraph scowled.
“Set me loose of these machines and I’ll show you just how difficult I can be,” Rogue growled.
“Let’s not be hostile. Now, about work. Nakir has already been briefed, however tomorrow night the two of you will depart on foot for Hayfork to the south-east,” Seraph started.
“Fuck off,” Rogue said angrily, “You’re wanting me to actually work for you, freely, immediately after you torture and abuse me? Fuck you.”
Seraph smiled wickedly and stepped closer to his defiant daughter who glared up at him with her unwavering yellow eyes.
“So angry, so strong, yet so stupid. How did I raise such an arrogant child?” Seraph hissed venomously. “You will do as I have instructed, and when you arrive you are to kill everyone in that encampment without mercy. And if you do not,” Seraph continued, bringing his face dangerously close to Rogue’s own, “I will have those machines tear you apart from the inside out.”
Rogue gritted her teeth, causing the muscles in her jaw to visibly twitch. Her nails dug painfully into her palms and as she released her grip, tiny beads of crimson adhered to the dirty and stained cuticles. Though she was now dressed in clean, black tactical gear, Rogue's unkempt hair, overgrown nails and sunken skin did nothing to create a less pitiful image as Seraph leered down at her.
“I don’t want to kill anymore innocent people,” Rogue stated. Seraph grimaced at the deflated and defeated tone in her voice and placed his hands gently on her shoulders.
“They’re only terrorists, killing and fighting for a world they pedantically believe is there’s to change. They have you to blame for that.”