Project Ares, the perfect weapon, the perfect soldier, but perfection has its price.
|“As you can see, Mr. Marris, we have quite a collection here. Top of the line weaponry here in Project Ares.”
Draco’s eyes flashed to the vaulted white observation walkway, continuing the fluid movements of his comrades as he tuned his ears to eavesdrop on their conversation.
“I see that.” Green met green and an immediate hatred burned in Draco’s gut.
Draco felt a sneer form, but he covered it quickly before Sensei could see, shifting into a new stance that forced his head away from the men.
“They are all top of the line, looks, abilities, strength, stamina, the resemblance is obvious in the boys, we’re not quite sure why your looks were most dominant in them.” The man's voice was pallid, dull, like he'd obviously been here too long and was running on artificial caffeine alone.
“Strong genes. All Marris’s have them." The thumping of a proud chest, "Isn’t that right Gabriel?” The sound of the man turning and the non-committal grunt of a teenager came after the inquiry.
“Indeed, your son seems to carry the same traits.” The scientist showing the pair around commented.
“Though, Gabriel isn’t genetically enhanced like the boys and girls here...” The father seemed disappointed, even if it wasn't entirely in his tone, at least not that the other two on the walkway could tell.
“I’m glad.” Gabriel’s venom was easy to read, loud and clear through the entirety of the flat white dojo; no doubt the other’s heard it too, from the flinch in Artemis’ stance to the growl in Orion’s exhale, “Who’d want to be a freak like them?”
Draco snarled, but kept his peace. Freak? Such a nasty little word from the boy's nasty little mouth. He hated nasty words.
Sensei clapped his hands, drawing his attention away from the trio, “All right, sparring is next, male-female today.” He said and they rearranged themselves until they were spread out in the enormous white room, fifty boys, fifty girls, all paired up and facing off on fifty white fighting mats, “Ready! Fight!”
Draco found himself across from Athena, who threw the first punch, her blue eyes bright with anger, “Did you hear that little runt?” She asked him, her sneer changing into a look of concentration as Sensei moved past them.
Draco nodded, “Freaks.” He blocked her attack, and they began to move in earnest, “Who does that brat think he is?”
Fifty pairs became blurs, too fast for the human eye to follow, and fifty pairs discussed the child, Gabriel, in truth, none of them were much older than he. They were fourteen, all of them made on the same day and brought out of the simu-embryonic fluid the same day. They all essentially had the same mind, the same thoughts, the Ares Mind, the scientists called it, because all of them consisted of some form of destruction or another. They were creations, the best the government could buy in the race for better weapons, stronger weapons, and the perfect soldier. Genetically engineered from the greatest minds, the greatest bodies, the fastest the strongest, the best of the best of the best.
All of the girls had taken on the looks of a woman by the name of Bella Jenisis, apparently she had had the greatest IQ of all of the men and women the scientists had taken DNA samples from, whilst the boys had taken on the resemblance of the man Draco had just seen. Genadom Marris, father to one Gabriel Marris, the strongest man on record to date. Blue-eyed, blonde haired girls, the perfect Aryan women, green-eyed, black haired boys, the ideal men. Perfect.
Draco let his eyes wander back up to the walkway, watching as the kid, Gabriel, was gripped tightly by the back of his neck and he pushed his mind into Jacob's, the one closest to Gabriel and Genadom, tuning his hearing so he could hear and broadcast to the rest of them.
"...Respect to the weapons of the future!" Genadom was snarling in Gabriel's ear.
"Why should I show respect to some pathetic... creatures, pretending to be human so they could kill people easier?" Gabriel hissed in return.
Genadom said something else, but Draco was already withdrawing as Jacob began to get the shakes. He soothed Jacob's mind before returning to his own mind, having set his body on auto-pilot as he slipped away, returning just in time to catch a kick aimed at his head.
"So that's how it is?" Athena hissed.
Draco growled, nodding. ‘Freaks’ that child had said, what did he know? They were meant for a greater purpose, to protect the universe from bad people, people who would see others hurt, in pain, he was going to defend the world.
Battle raged around him and he fought mechanically, firing his blaster without even looking to see the targets, he just knew they weren’t on his side. Anything not on his side, died, as simple as that, black and white, no grey to mess it all up. Draco dropped his weapon as the energy cartridge ran out and pulled a second one from his side, decimating the people who came at him, something niggled at the back of his head, though, this seemed like too many to just be the colonists he was supposed to be suppressing. He looked at the uniforms that ran at him, colonists didn’t wear uniforms, only Uniforms wore uniforms. He blinked in confusion, but pulled the trigger again and again, the people running at him dropped like flies, stupid little flies running to their doom. He heard nothing, nothing at all, just the distant roar of what seemed like an ocean as the flashes of light flared in his vision.
Finally, finally it was silent, for real this time and he could breathe and examine what happened. The Hive was silent, that’s what was wrong, he couldn’t hear the thoughts of his brothers and sisters. Even Orion, who’s voice was always loudest, was quiet. Where had they gone? He probed out into the silence, bewildered, he didn't understand, where were they?
His eyes glazed over the bodies, these ones were supposed to be on his side, the ones in uniform. They were all in uniform. Why had he killed them? He picked his way over to one of them, the blasters in their hands were silent. That's right, they had tried to kill him, now why was that? Was it because the Ares Mind was silent? Their Ares Mind had failed them, he could hear nothing and again he probed the silence. It was eerie, this silence, as unused to it as he was, the ruckus of his brothers and sisters had just gone dead. It wasn’t until he felt the first stings of laser fire across his arm had he reacted. It was immediate and lasted not more than ten minutes; he had to get rid of the killing sensations that pushed at his mind, it hurt and pain was not good. Quickly, he searched the bodies, pulling out their assignment holo, bypassing the codes and activating it in seconds.
“The Ares Project is bust, take your ‘leaders’ and immediately terminate them no later than 0700 hours.” Said the little man who had popped up, and Draco narrowed his eyes as fury settled in his chest.
True, from their original one hundred, ten had remained, the others having succumbed to fits of insanity or rage or seizures, but the final ten had been strong, Draco himself, Orion, Artemis, Shiva, Athena, Zeus, Demeter, Hera, Lucifer, and Perseus, they had all been the final ten, the perfect ones. Why had they been killed? A bust? He hardly thought so, but...
Again he cried out to the silence, pleading for one of them to answer him, but there was nothing, nothing at all, just the deafening echoing hollowness, and he hated it. Hated it worse than anything he'd ever had. He couldn't though, wouldn't, let his emotions get in the way of this, he had to... had to... do something, what did he want to do? He felt something trickle down his face and he swiped it away angrily, it wasn't right, the silence was terrible. He cast his mind out, again and again, searching and searching, small noises coming from his throat as he continued to only find the emptiness of his own mind, of just himself. Just one. He needed his brothers, his sisters, how could they be silent? It wasn't right! Shivers ran the length of his spine, and he tore free the computer that his unit carried, hissing under his breath as he searched the databanks for the one who had given the order, for the one that wanted their termination. And there it was, cold, venomous hatred welled at the sight before something flashed behind his eyes and he was simply cold, hollow, silent. It was that man's fault. He had killed his family, his mind, this man had destroyed everything, a man by the name of Marris, Genadom Marris.
It hadn’t taken long for the government to find a way to control Draco’s mercenary nature, he thought wryly. He was a man-for-hire, able to do anything… for the right price. He was highly intelligent, and superior in all ways, even emotionally, caring little about what happened to himself or the rest of the world that stood in his way. Perhaps he was sociopathic, perhaps he liked seeing others in pain, perhaps it was both, but all of his brains and brawn had helped make him the best in the for-hire field. Which was why he was sitting in this pathetic little cantina, letting this puny government official talk to him and offer him a considerable price for a seemingly equally pathetic job. “So,” He said with a stylized Cockney accent, “Let me get this straight.” His eyes flashed amused and laughing as the little man flustered and blushed five shades of pink, “You want me to kill a man and take a ship? Is that righ’?”
“No, not me, Organization Fifteen, secret subdivision…”
“Yeah, yeah, Secret Subdivision Five, Sector Thirteen, Subdivision Thirteen, a ‘non-existent’ branch of the government that deals with classified materials and data. I know.” He smirked when the man looked shocked, “I s’pose I could do that. Tell me when I start and I expect forty bil up front, the other sixty you can pay me after the job’s done.”
“You start now, here’s your target, here’s the list of dates, times, and places you need to be and when. Copies of his fingerprints, retinal scans, history, records of his life and family.” The little man handed over several data disks.
“Kay.” Draco said, looking at the picture, “Well, well.” He leaned back in his seat, “We meet again, Gabriel Marris. I was wondering when our paths would cross.”
“You know him?” The man demanded.
“Met him once." A sneer crossed his face, "We didn’t have a nice meeting.” Draco stood swiftly, “I’ll be in touch when everything’s complete. I expect my money as soon as that happens.” He said firmly, turning on his heel and leaving, he had no more business with the men who thought they could control him again.
He got home, well, rather, to his current house, and input all of the data disks, quickly moving to get pieces for this ruse together before the launch, which was less that ninety-six hours from now. He absorbed the information, his mind filing away the quiet beep of his home signalling that his house was clean for him. He read on this man’s life, his brow furrowed deeply in throught as he batted away the small butler robot vying for his attention, trying to ask him if he wanted anything to eat or drink.
Gabriel Marris had grown up under the ferocious hand of Genadom Marris (Draco's face twisted in an ugly snarl at the name), hiding bruises, covering lacerations. As soon as he had turned sixteen he had split and joined the Army while his father was away in the Air Force. He rose through the ranks on his own, without using his father as a buffer, quickly becoming a fierce Commander at the age of nineteen. He reached the peak of his career when he helped to subdue rising forces in the colonies…
Draco frowned, that was when the Ares Mind had been terminated, that brat was there? He shook his head and returned to reading.
The Colonies fell quickly and Gabriel was lauded as a hero, single-handedly defeating the fiercest of the colony’s forces with only himself and three of his remaining platoon when he was still nineteen. He returned home to his then-girlfriend, who quickly became Mrs. Gabriel Marris two weeks later. Nine-months after that, Korbin Marris was born, to celebrate, Gabriel got a tattoo of the Lignum Vitae, Tree of Life, done on his back with Life Ink (ink that imitates the movement of life). Now, with a family to think about, Gabriel gracefully retires.
Three years later, he returns home to find a man, sitting in his home, drinking tea and asking Gabriel return to the Army for another battle gathering forces on the fringe planets again. Gabriel refuses and takes his family, jumping planet. The following week, he arrives home to find his wife, pregnant with their second child, and his son, slaughtered. Devastated by the loss, Gabriel flees the grasp of the government, only to be found by this project, project Andromeda.
Draco leaned back in his chair at this, a frown crossing his face, so he was to put this man out of his misery then. Looked like a challenge he was willing to take. He stretched, making himself a quick drink and moving in front of the mirror. They looked similar, which was a plus for him, though it was partly due to them both sharing similar strands of DNA, from Gabriel’s father, so pulling off Gabriel’s look shouldn’t be too hard. He switched through a few expressions, scowling, frowning, growling, snarling, glaring, sneering… He nodded, that would do.
Now, to assimilate the man was something else entirely. If he was reading the documents on the Project itself correctly, it would take more than a couple of fingerprints and some retina scans to trick this thing into submission. He sighed, setting down the specs of the ship, closing his eyes and picking up a pencil, his hand moving over the paper, methodically, slowly, bringing forth an image, a dragon, Draco, of Old Earth’s night sky, coiled around the guiding North Star to lead travellers back home. His namesake, more or less, it had been a long time since he had abandoned ‘EXP 0013’. He hadn’t been that since he was a year old and picked his name. He crumpled up the drawing and its damned details, throwing it across the room, “Forget that.” He muttered, returning to his computer and beginning his research.
Four days later, right on schedule, he had all of his specs in order, even had painted a temporary tattoo on his back exactly like Gabriel’s Lignum Vitae, minus the Life Ink, but he would have to wipe it everyday and then repaint it on, his own creativity allowed to flourish on the tree. He had later discovered that the ex-hero had a new tattoo, a paw of some canine creature, likely Old Earth’s creature, the wolf, a noble animal to commit to skin, he supposed. He would have to hide his own tattoo, the great dragon on his chest that he had put there to celebrate his name. The creature spanned his chest and even went below the belt intimately and down his leg, the end of its tail resting just above the jutting bone of his ankle.
He shoved his hair from his face; a gesture he had to get used to, as his doppelganger did so frequently; and moved to the facility that housed the Andromeda, careful that he wasn’t looked at too closely, as the real Gabriel had likely been here as well to check out the ship. Maybe to check in as well, he hoped that wasn’t the case, as it would make it considerably more difficult for him to get on if he had already checked in.
He waited outside a moment, his sharp eyes picking up the other members of his crew, one, Robin, caught his eye, the kids honest expression made him look… well, like a kid. Then he switched his gaze to the surly-looking Maya, the hard set to her jaw made her look tough, though, no tougher than he looked, he supposed. The other’s came in turn, Hyke, the brains of the outfit apparently, she kind of reminded him of Athena, his long dead 'sister'; then Chance, the doc, he looked it, a doctor that is. Then came Jaci, Wira Jaci, their pilot. He supposed they all looked like a good crew to have. His gaze turned to a figure hulking the corner, his copy, down to the cold look in their eyes as they watched the crew talk and head back indoors. He followed, the shock of black hair on his head and the sneer in his eyes was sure to catch Gabriel’s eye, along with his bags, and he headed inside.
He felt, rather than saw the military man follow him, and he was careful to draw it out, making his way into the facility, it wasn’t particularly difficult to avoid the guards, but Gabriel had to stop and check in before he could pass, obviously not as light-footed or sure-stepped as Draco was. Draco made his way down the corridors, instinctively knowing his way around, and to the ship, pausing a moment to marvel at the magnificently well-made space-craft.
A weight slammed into him from behind and he went down as Gabriel dragged him off to a dark corner, obviously wanting their scuffle to be private, just what Draco wanted. He smirked as he was slammed up against the cold steel of the walls, “Hello Gabriel, we meet again.” He marvelled at their likeness, to see it up front, how closely they looked like one another, the only difference was, Draco was made where as Gabriel was born.
“Who the fuck, d’you fink you are?” Gabriel snarled in his Cockney accent.
“Me?” Draco imitated the accent, “I fink I’m Gabriel Marris, ‘ere to launch wif the crew. And you?”
“Like ‘ell you are.” Gabriel snarled, his fist meeting steel as Draco slipped from his grasp and threw a punch at the back of his head, forcing Gabriel’s face into the wall. The resulting dent impressed even Draco.
“Like ‘ell am I?” He laughed as Gabriel extracted himself and lunged at Draco, his nose bleeding viciously, “I think you’re quite mistaken.” He spun and jammed his elbow up into the underside of Gabriel’s jaw, hearing a couple teeth crack beneath the blow, “I’m so out of your league you look ridiculous against me.” He hissed, grabbing a fistful of the black hair on the other man’s head, “Honestly, you deserve a better death than what I have in store, you deserve some honour and respect, but, unfortunately.” He threw the military man into the wall noisily, he knew it was going to attract attention if he wasn’t careful, “Your death gives me a nice sum of money I’m not willing to give up. One hundred billion dollars... you'd kill someone in cold blood happily too. Mind you, I've done worse for less money.” He chuckled coldly and punched Gabriel again, sending the man flying into Andromeda’s landing gear, some nasty crunches following the connection. “It’s very likely that you’re not going to get up after that. My guess, judging from your trajectory and the force with which I hit you, your spine is broken and so is your ankle.” He looked on with mock sadness, “Time for you to die, Gabriel, say good night now.”
“Wait.” Gabriel said hoarsely, his voice heavy with blood, “Who… Who are you?”
Draco gave pause, considering the question, “Me?” He laughed, “I’m a freak, remember?”
Gabriel’s good eye widened (as the other was swollen already with a bruise), “Project Ares was terminated.” He said.
“Project Ares was terminated, however, the government couldn’t catch up with Lucky Number 13 and now, they've hired me to take everything you have away. Which, considering your record, is very little.” Draco said, highly amused, before running his hand forward and choking off Gabriel’s next reply. His hand tightened on the man’s trachea, cutting off his air and ignoring the scores down his hand as Gabriel tried to free himself from the iron grip, “Goodnight sweet prince, may flights of devils wing you to your rest.” He chuckled, “Or perhaps that would be more appropriate for when I die, no?”
Gabriel gave a last, pleading look to him before he went limp in Draco’s grasp, yet still he clutched the other tighter until he felt bones give beneath his hands and the sound of Gabriel’s frantic heart died with a last heave. Only then did he release the military man, only then could he be sure that the other would not wake again. Some small measure of satisfaction slipped through his emotionless facade, the desire to see it be Genadom in his grasp instead of his child was very strong, however, seeing as Genadom had died some years earlier of a stroke of all things, he did not get that pleasure.
His eyes darted around, quickly searching for a place to stash the body for the time being. He discovered the storage compartments, able to be open from both inside and outside, and decided to shove Gabriel inside until he could put him somewhere else without risk.
Having hidden the body, Draco picked up both his and Gabriel’s packs, his eyes steady, but worn, like Gabriel’s had been, “Checkin’ in, yeah?” He said to one of the scientists and they nodded, checking the records.
“Mister Gabriel Marris, is it?”
“Yeah.” He said, turning and going into the Andromeda quickly and stashing his gear, he still had one more chore to do before his job was complete, and he pulled out a knife, this would go faster with a weapon than his hands.
“Gabriel?” Draco turned at the noise and about came face to face with Robin.
“Yeah?” He asked, hiding the knife behind him and raising his brow.
“Just wanted to see who you are, I’m Robin.”
Draco nodded, his eyes sweeping the computer boy, making a note of the port on the side of his head, “Be back in a few.” He said, again sweeping his hand through his hair and exiting the vessel.
“Better hurry, we’ll be leaving soon!” Robin called after him and Draco raised his arm in acknowledgement.
Draco slipped through the facility, pulling his knife free once more, “Now. Just one more.” He muttered, stepping into the launch room.
“Mr. Marris? I’m sorry; we can’t allow you to be…” The man’s sentence was cut off as Draco’s knife went into his chest.
Everything seemed to stand still and only Draco was moving, his mind was blank, running on auto-pilot, killing indiscriminately, everyone had to die. He could see the people screaming, but his mind didn’t process it, blood was everywhere, and death reigned around him until the cotton stuffed silence became actual silence and only the sound of papers drifting to the floor could be heard. He sniffed, there was still someone here that needed to die, “I know you’re here love.” He murmured, closing his eyes and breathing the scent once more. Fear, the woman stank of it and part of him glorified in it, but the rest of him was cold and uncaring, “Why don’t you just come here and we’ll get this over with quick, hm?” He heard her try and stifle her sob and he made his way over, peering at her from atop a desk, “Hello love.” He said softly and she whirled, terror in every inch of her frame as she backed away from him and into the desk behind her. He hopped down and she gave a small scream, pulling her knees to her chest to try and protect herself. “Now, now…” He moved over and touched her shoulder.
“Don’t!” She screeched, batting his hand away.
Draco could have crushed the hand that smacked at him, but he didn’t. He couldn’t quite fathom why, but the woman’s panic made something in him pause, “You must be the brains of the outfit. Either that or the random secretary, hm? Which is it?” He asked.
She looked up, tear stains over her face, “Why do you want to know?” She demanded, scooting away from him.
He grabbed her arm, making her tears run anew, “Just curious. Besides, every moment you keep talking keeps you alive a bit more.”
She shook in his grip, but replied nonetheless, “I’m the head of Project Andromeda, yes.” Her voice was surprisingly steady for the position she was in.
“Excellent. You must be the boy-o’s mama, Robin was it?” He asked.
She looked alarmed, “You’re not going to hurt him are you?” She asked, desperate, “Please, please, please, don’t hurt Robin.” She was sharp though, “Don’t kill him either, please.”
“Ah, Miss, ain’t part of my job. In fact, ‘m supposed to take the whole crew alive.” He stood, “Best make peace with whatever you need to, luv.” He dusted off his pants, “Gots stuff to do.”
She teared up again, closing her eyes and looking down.
Draco sighed, he hated killing women, or at least women that he had had a conversation with, if briefly… His eyes darted up as the woman ran to the controls, quickly flicking a few switches and pressing buttons, “Mother fucker!” He snarled, leaping over a desk and reaching her quickly and burying his knife deep in her back.
“Too late, Andromeda’s launching.” She said, her eyes laughing at him as she slammed her hand down on the bright red emergency button.
“Fuck!” Draco snarled, turning and running out of the room back to the ship. He needed to make sure that ship reached his employers, he had to. “Wait!” He bellowed as the gangplank began rising. He leapt, catching the end of it, hurling himself over and tumbling end over end into the ship. He landed in a heap on the ground and he quickly scanned the room to see if anyone was around. No one was, thankfully and he stripped, going to the compartment where Gabriel was stored, exchanging their clothing and darting his eyes around once more. It was time to finish the job, Andromeda needed to be his until he turned it over to his employers. He took a breath, it was time to be Gabriel, he could do this, and he could do it easy as pie.
“Gabriel, right? Do you know what happened?”
Draco turned his head up to look at Chance, “No, I just got on when I heard the sirens.” He replied, the lie falling easily from his tongue.
Chance bit his lip, cursing under his breath, “I wonder what happened.” And then the doc was gone and Draco could breathe.
His hand slipped into the borrowed pocket and his nose wrinkled at the hole he found, “Can’t even keep your pockets in one piece, ol’ chap; how you ever kept yourself in one is a mystery to me.” He asked to the compartment, patting it before pushing off and making his way through the ship and to his quarters to clean up, to rid himself of evidence, and of the clinging scent of blood and death.