The only sounds that filled the room were the buzzing of machines and the clicking of several keyboards at once and the occasional murmurs of men and women in lab suits talking to one and another.
“Ninety-five percent, Mr. Taylor,” spoke a woman to the man beside her. Mr. Taylor, a scrawny gentleman with messy hair, leaned over a computer screen as he pulled his bangs back, showing the reflection of a loading bar in his glasses. Just then a computerized female voice declared Eureka! and applause broke out in the room.
“Another successful transfer ladies and gentleman,” Mr. Taylor announced confidently.
A door at the end of the room hissed open and a dashing man wearing a tailored three piece suit entered the room. “Damion, you didn’t say you were stopping by. I would have waited to hold the transfer if I knew,” Mr. Taylor said to the gentleman.
“Unexpected visitors today, so let’s keep it formal, Mr. Taylor,” Damion said, a bit of annoyance in his voice.
“Of course Mr. Chester, although I don’t know who would consider you not formal,” he chuckled. Almost everything about Damion Chester was formal. His hair was so clean cut, it was as if he had a personal hair dresser on standby. The only thing about him that seemed out of order was his five o’clock shadow.
“Another successful transfer I presume?” Damion inquired.
“Good. Press and government officials will be buzzing around today. I don’t want any mistakes.”
“Speaking of the press, my friend, I think I have found the perfect subjects for your projects,” excitedly spoke Mr. Taylor.
“Hers,” groaned Damion, “I have no need to entertain the press.” Damion picked up a magazine on a desk nearby that had an attractive blonde on the cover with the words The New Face of Re-Inc printed under her picture.
“Either way you’ll still be interested in this,” Taylor insisted as he handed over a red folder. Damion curiously flipped through the file as he came across pictures of four teenagers. His facial expression quickly changed to one of panic.
“Please tell me this is some kind of a joke, Atlas!” Damion exclaimed, furious.
“What happened to being formal?” grinned Mr. Taylor, “Let me explain it to you before you shut this project down.”
“Only because I know that you’re not a complete idiot,” snapped Damion.
Taylor smiled and continued, “People are losing faith in this system because they’re expecting us to take a deranged serial killer and turn him into a boy scout that you could take home to mom and dad within the first transfer. What they’re not seeing is the team of behavioral scientists that are struggling to create the perfect profile to make the ultimate treatment.”
“Where are you going with this?”
“That’s why we want to show the world every step, every milestone that these kids go through. If they can see the progress, then they can’t deny it or the program anymore.” Mr. Taylor studied Damion’s facial expression as he waited for a response.
“You can do that with anyone. Why these four? They have never had a successful trial,” he said, holding up the red folder, “Hence, why they were placed in the red section.”
Mr. Taylor grabbed the folder and flipped it open to a date and pointed at June 3rd 2062. “They were one of the first subjects this program had treated. We’re more advanced now and no one has attempted any of the red files with our new treatments. The case is a high profile, so not only would the public have entertainment, but our profits would soar.” Damion began to pace the room, his thoughts racing through his head so fast that he couldn’t keep up with them. As much as he objected to the subjects, Atlas was right. It was true that he could choose anyone for the projects, but they needed something that screamed difficulty if they wanted to satisfy the people and keep the program running. Damion resigned, “At least it’s not my name on the project.”
“Exactly my thought,” Taylor said with a smile, “and if it fails, I’m sure whoever cleans up the mess would be the next CEO.” Damion caught the hint, and returned the smile,
“Well why didn’t you say something before?”
Damion walked out of the room through a series of corridors and stopped at the elevator. Once the elevator doors dinged closed, Damion straightened his suit in the reflection of the doors and reached his arm out to his reflection as if he was going to shake its hand. “Ms. Hampton, a pleasure to see you again,”; “Ms. Hampton, it’s wonderful to see you again.” Damion studied his own facial expressions with each greeting he practiced. He wanted to make sure his emotions weren’t being given away. The elevator reached floor twenty-six and the doors dinged open again. He stepped into a room that made him cringe. Desks were lined into rows of four; they were empty and had papers strewn across the tops. Nobody was working--instead they were gathered around various televisions scattered throughout the room. Each television showed the same woman that was on the magazine holding a press conference. Damion went to the break room in an attempt to get some coffee before his meeting. He sighed as he entered the break room and found it worse than the office area. Cold coffee cups, half eaten sandwiches, empty yogurt containers and the occasional salads trashed the room. He leaned out the door between the office and the break room, “Does this belong to anyone?” He asked as he held up some of the trash. The workers seemed to be glued to the TV screens in front of them, so Damion tossed what he had in his hands into the trash and began walking to the coffee pot. “Of course,” he sighed as he held up an empty coffee pot. He fixed the coffee maker and began to brew a fresh pot. While he was waiting, he started to clean up the room and throw away everything in his path. “I did ask them,” he muttered to himself. He was washing the last cup when the coffee finished brewing.
After he made himself a cup, Damion walked back into the office to find that the press conference had ended. The worker bees had returned to their desks and one especially disheveled worker entered the break room, “Where’s my sandwich?” The man demanded.
Damion entered another office that was more to his setting—it was organized and the color scheme didn’t make him want to rip his hair out. He looked outside the window at the landscaping while he drank his coffee. A voice interrupted his thoughts,
“Mr. Chester, did we have an appointment?”
Damion turned around to find Ms. Hampton, who was wearing her hair as she normally did, perfectly waved passed her shoulders. She was wearing a woman’s designer suit that was slightly unbuttoned to show off some of her curves. Damion gave her an insincere smile, “No, I had good news and thought a surprise would be best.”
“Well if it’s good news I suppose I could make time for you,” she joked.
“It seems Mr. Taylor has once again not let us down,” he proudly announced. Damion handed her the subjects and began to give her the same speech that Mr. Taylor gave him. She didn’t seem worried like Damion was. Her face was full of excitement as she read deeper into the file as Damion spoke.
“This is perfect. This is exactly what the media wants. They’re violent and attractive…”
“Excuse me?” Damion interrupted.
“Beauty in the beasts… Nobody wants to watch someone unattractive,” she began to explain.
“What do you mean watch?”
“I don’t want just another published article. I want these kids in the peoples’ homes. I want the people to experience them.”
“Experience them? These are killers were talking about. You want to publish real murders on television?” Damion asked, outraged.
“It’s a completely controlled environment and they would be killing man-made clones, not actual people,” she explained.
“This is absurd! There are people still afraid to walk in public because of the horrors these four have committed. You’ll make a nightmare real again.”
“I would make it authentic, which is what the world is asking for,” she interjected. Damion couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Giving serial killers their own television show where they can kill people with no one stopping them? This will never be approved, he thought to himself.
The next morning Damion woke up with a headache. He stayed up all night with his head racing about the idea of making a literal killer television show. Damion had no family he was left to a foster system by his mother and had no interest in looking for her. He had lived in several homes but had never made an effort to connect with anyone. He was fine with being alone; he could never understand why anyone would chose to clean up after other people’s messes or have to adjust your time to someone else. Everything he had was his and he never had to ask where anything was at because he controlled everything around him. The only person he bothered making a connection with was Atlas. Damion met Atlas during their freshman year of college, who he honestly could not stand when he first met. Atlas was running late for statistics class and busted through the classroom door disrupting the whole class. He was so embarrassed he stumbled to the closest seat available which was the one next to Damion. He clumsily dropped all of his papers and books on the desk which spilled over to Damion’s side. Damion helped him stack his things to clear his side of the desk then finished by placing a ruler between them to show a separation of the desk. Atlas smiled crookedly towards him, and assumed it was a sign of friendship. As time went on Damion found himself not minding Atlas. He wouldn’t call him messy but more disorganized no matter what he was doing and as long as Damion asked, Atlas would fix any mess that bothered him. He was the only person Damion called a friend and was willing to see outside of work.
He had the day off from the office but it didn’t mean he wasn’t working. After breakfast, Damion went into his office, opened up the red file, and began separating papers into four piles. The first pile showed a picture of a girl with short brown hair and glasses. The girl’s name was printed under the picture and read AJ. The next page had a psychological profile filled with a vocabulary he wasn’t qualified to understand. One line stood out: “Subject seems to suffer from severe thanatophobia resulting in minor anxiety attacks.” Interesting, a killer who is afraid of death, Damion thought to himself. The next several pages contained a biography of the subject. Let’s see, mother died during child birth resulting in an over protective father… And look at that, he worked in local law enforcement. Well, this would make for good television. Damion instantly became furious at his own thought. It didn’t matter how good the story was, letting someone kill to entertain others wasn’t the solution to their problem.
He continued to the next pile showing a red haired female with wavy hair. Her name was Victoria and she was the only child in an upper middle class family. Her mother was a stay at home mom and her father was an accountant. Well that is as stereotypical as you can get for a suburbia child, but it doesn’t scream serial killer. Damion flipped back to her psych profile “Superficial charmer and kleptomaniac,” Every man’s dream, he sarcastically thought.
The next profile was another female named Chelsea. Her picture showed a brunette with a partially shaved head. The subject and her parents were involved in a car accident—her parent’s died and she suffered a head trauma and was in a coma for 3 months. Once she was discharged from the hospital, she went into foster care and was later adopted by an infertile couple. Her psyche profile read: “Head is kept shaved to show the scar from her accident…Show signs of Tyrpanophobia.” Well I wouldn’t like needles either if I was in coma for months.
The last profile was the only male. The picture showed a brown haired boy named Robert whose hair had a pattern shaved into the side. His father was a war hero and had died overseas; his mother became an abusive drunk once the father passed away. “Scars on body show obvious signs of abuse and false sense of patriotism.” He picked up all four pictures and stared at them. Well, Ms. Hampton was correct when she said they were attractive. If I didn’t have the evidence in front of me I would have never assumed they were serial killers. He pulled out their crime reports and saw that each one had their own specialty. AJ: Asphyxiation, Victoria: Knives, Chelsea: Arson and Robert: Guns. Well aren’t we the colorful family he thought to himself as he looked at pictures of the victims and crime scenes.
Damion became more and more frustrated as he looked at the files, mostly because he realized that he agreed with Ms. Hampton. The kids were perfect for television, but that didn’t justify watching people being murdered, even if they were just clones. Damion grabbed his phone off its dock and dialed Atlas, hoping that his friend could save him from his own mind.
“Mr. Chester!” Atlas answered adding a touch of humor to his voice.
“Stop, you’re already annoying me, which is the exact opposite of why I called,” Damion retorted.
“Oh, this is serious. Is this about the project?”
“Yes. I spoke with Ms. Hampton and she told me that she wants to create a television show to actually broadcast real murders, using these kids.”
“The government would never approve that so stop worrying,” encouraged Atlas.
“They will if they’re clones. The government doesn’t register them as real people. I have this gut feeling this is going to happen and it will mark us as a villain corporation.”
“Are you kidding? Turn on your television once in a while—it’s filled with violence, that’s why crime shows are a hit; although no one has ever made one solely about the villains.”
“Yes, but this is real! They’re not fictional characters.”
“It’s a controlled environment with clones, and at anytime they could nuke the whole place if it gets too chaotic. There is no hazard here. I don’t know what you’re so worried about, Damion.”
Damion sighed, “I’m worried about how we will look if this is televised. The people will want to see the brains behind the project.”
“What happened to her name being on the project and you reaping the benefit of her mistakes?”
“Atlas, please. You know no one would ever think she is the brains of the operation. The board only chose her over me because of her looks.”
“Right, so when it blows up in her face, you can say you were always unsupportive and she rejected your input.”
“This is true…”
“Don’t worry about it Damion, just enjoy the show.”
The next day Damion went straight to the meeting room and began setting it up for the behavioral scientists. The room was large with glass walls and in the center was a long rectangular table with comfortable looking chairs placed around it. Damion began placing touch screens on the table in front of each chair—he had transferred the primitive paper files onto them. As he finished setting up the room, he stood at the front and watched his watch as it struck 9 AM. Several people in suits entered the room and shook Damion’s hand. Damion continued to stand as the men and women stood around talking to each other. At 9:07 AM, the door opened once again and Ms. Hampton walked in.
“Late for our first meeting…That doesn’t speak well for the project,” provoked Damion.
“Well, some of us run the company, Mr. Chester, and don’t have the luxury of spare time,” responded Ms. Hampton.
Enraged by the comment, Damion took his place next to a large touch screen television on the wall. “Obviously, the nature of this meeting is unorthodox and what is to be heard in this room is not to be repeated to anyone that is unauthorized until the press release. That being said, if you notice in front of you there is a tablet. On the first page is a contract that you must sign before continuing this meeting,” Damion informed them.
“Is all of this really necessary?” A female psychologist exclaimed. “You’re acting as if we’re bringing back Lincoln or Washington.”
At this moment Ms. Hampton let out a small laugh. “Not quite, but we expect the publicity to be just as much, and maybe even more. The specifications of this project are serious and without the right exposure this could devastate the company. With that being said, you do not have to participate if you do not wish to, but you will be given a generous bonus for this project, which you can find in the contract.”
They all looked over the contract, and then signed without hesitation.
“Well let’s get started then,” Damion announced cheerfully. He then motioned with his hand and the large screen on the wall lit up with the word Infinity. “As you may be aware of our public reviews, or the several protests outside the gates, society has given up on us and our efforts have failed. We believe that Infinity is the answer to this problem.”
“Well what is Infinity suppose to be?” asked a male sociologist.
“It’s a television show,” eagerly announced Ms. Hampton, “To be specific, it is a show about the next transfer.”
“To be exact,” interrupted Damion, “It is a high profile case, which will be lead by Atlas Taylor, to show how well the system does work.” He motioned to the screen and a holographic image of four teenagers was projected on to the middle of the table. The kids were in front of something that looked to be a warehouse.
“Wait a second!” The oldest of the scientists brashly interrupted. “These are the leaders of the Chaos Army.”
“That would be correct,” Damion confirmed.
“Who?” asked one of the younger males in the group.
“The Chaos Army. My family is full of generations of law enforcement. The Chaos Army is a scary story we tell the children, but the story was based on actual events. This Army was a criminal organization that existed in what we now call the Blood Age.”
“Wait, the Blood age is why this organization was started, wasn’t it?” Asked the young male again.
“Indeed,” confirmed Damion, “It was the time when crime was at its highest and people wouldn’t leave there houses when it was dark. To be truthful, most people say that the Chaos Army started it.”
“Damn right they did,” furiously yelled the older gentleman, “My great great grandfather was one of the people who hunted them. They were disturbed,” he said it was as if they were born with no conscience, “The murders were so brutal that most of the time the press didn’t even release the crime photos and funerals usually had a closed casket.”
“Well I see why the contract was so necessary now,” stated the female psychologist.
“You’re out of your damn minds if you’re planning to bring those four back!” critically exclaimed the older gentleman.
“We are not bringing back the whole army, just the four,” encouraged Ms. Hampton.
“Before you make your judgments, I would like for you to look at the extra security requirements we will add for this project,” explained Damion. As he spoke, he gestured towards their tablets and the pages changed on their own.
“Trained mercenaries?” inquired the older gentleman.
“Yes. I also wasn’t cooperative with the project, just as you were. I explained my discomfort with Ms. Hampton and together we agreed on this as a solution.”
“If I could be the one to explain, Mr. Chester?” asked Ms. Hampton. Damion encouraged her to continue. “This will be an important process that will take time. I would like for you to train these mercenaries so they won’t contaminate the environment. Once the mercenaries are trained, they will act as characters in the environment to help shape the criminals into proper citizens.”
The female psychologist interrupted, “I apologize, Ms. Hampton, I believe I misunderstood. You want to place actual people, not clones, in these environments with serial killers?”
Damion cleared his throat. “Yes, that is in fact correct. These mercenaries have no relatives and are well aware that they could be killed during the experiment. They have signed contracts agreeing to these facts, but according to their job description, they do not care, due to huge paychecks they’ll be receiving if they survive.”
“This is ridiculous. How was this even approved?” announced the young gentleman.
“Curiosity, I believe. No one besides the employees has been able to watch the subjects go through the entire process, and now we’re offering the world an all access pass. Not to mention that any time, should the experiment go out of control, we can blow up the entire environment,” cheerfully explained Ms. Hampton.
“There is no risk for the government, just the risk of the company’s name. The government will come out looking like heroes if they close us down,” interjected Damion.
“So if this goes south, we’re all out of a job?” asked the young gentleman.
“We have set forth a financial asset to supply all employees in the cooperation a year’s worth of salary, if the project does not go as planned,” eagerly explained Ms. Hampton.
“Well, this is obviously is happening, but where does it start?” asked the female psychologist.
“The only place it can, at the beginning. We will show the people what these kids are like before we start the treatment, which will give you plenty of time to train the mercenaries while we keep the public interested,” stated Damion. He turned to the older gentleman, “Mr. Thomas, won’t you join us?”
“I will,” he replied curtly, “but only on my demands. I do not wish to see anything visual, just the facts written, and no details on their murders. Also, as soon as I believe this experiment is for entertainment and the purpose this project was created for I am allowed to leave,” explained Mr. Thomas.
“That sounds fair to me. Does anyone else have anything they want to add to their contract?” Ms. Hampton inquired. Everyone else was content with the specifications of the project and seemed eager to start. “Well if you follow me, I will introduce you to your assigned mercenaries,” she added with a chuckle.
In a week’s time, Ms. Hampton had set up a press release for Atlas and Damion to join her in. Damion was thrilled to finally be in the spot light that he so badly yearned for. The same couldn’t be said for Atlas, who was squirming in his chair and fighting with the make-up artist and hairdressers.
“Would you stop it, Atlas? You’re embarrassing me,” Damion demanded.
“We’re men, Damion. We do not wear makeup!” Atlas ashamedly responded.
“Oh please with those old traditions; it’s a press conference. If you can find me one man who doesn’t wear make up for a press conference, I will personally give you everything I own.”
Atlas grumbled and began to sit still in his chair. “Fine, but I won’t do another press conference.”
As they all walked on stage, the spotlights snapped, and Damion could feel the heat of them on his face. Ms. Hampton, looking more glamorous then usual, announced the television show and answered all questions the press directed towards her—the majority of them being the same questions as those asked at the meeting with the behavioral scientists.
One of the news reporters from the crowd spoke up and asked, “Ms. Hampton, when is the program set to begin?”
“Actually, that’s the surprise!” Ms. Hampton answered excitedly. “Right after this press conference, Infinity will be airing on every television in the world, thanks to our government friends.”
The room suddenly buzzed to life, with reporters and news castors asking questions all at once. Ms. Hampton quickly extinguished them, “I apologize, but I feel that all important questions have been answered. We will hold another press conference after the first week of its’ airing. This will end our session for the day. Enjoy.” With a mocking smile on her face, Ms. Hampton sauntered off the stage.