Chapter 2 – Page 1

Dr. Hektate held true to his promise. Number 7 did not get dinner that night. It didn’t matter though. It wasn’t his stomach that made for a hard night. While what he saw in the morgue answered many of his questions, it turned his mind into a mess. He couldn’t think properly. His thoughts ran in circles and up walls before leading to dead ends and tangling up on themselves. Then they’d start all over, running in circles.

The only answer he managed to come up with was that he was too lacking in information, and the interweb wasn’t much help. All night long he continued to search for anything related to the Whitehill Project, but other than that one file, he came up with nothing. It was a miracle that he found it in the first place with how deep it had been tucked away. But, even with how lucky he had been, it hadn’t given him very much information on the Project itself. The only real information was the names of the test subjects, death dates, amount of money, and a connection between the USCU and Pandora. It looked almost more like a receipt than anything else, and it was only because Seven had been looking for it that it had made any sense.

Why was Pandora working for the USCU? What made Alicia special enough to attract the attention of Pandora and the USCU? Why were clones of her made? Would those clones really give the USCU an edge over the CNA, which had the technology of a photon bomb? If not, then weren’t clones just a waste of money? Wouldn’t that be put to better use creating other weapons like guns or bombs? The money was wasted anyway when all but one clone died. Then, was it really worth it? Was he worth it?

By the next morning, his stomach finally began grumbling in protest. To distract himself from his hunger and still tumbling thoughts, he tracked Manti’s progress through the halls using both Manti’s personal link and the security cameras. It seemed as if Dr. Hektate deemed Number 7 unworthy of having breakfast as well if Manti’s wandering actions were to go by.

Seven sighed and flipped through the channels of the compounds cameras. He could watch TV or read a book to take his mind off things, but his mind wouldn’t settle. Plus, the strange amount of activity today in the compound made him curious.

Something was definitely happening. The cooks were rushing about in the kitchen making more food than usual. Scientists were scattering papers about and nearly panicking their heads off. Only Johan Hektate had any semblance of normalcy. He was drinking coffee at his desk with a bemused smirk, but even with the awkward camera angle, Seven could still see beads of sweat on his forehead. Even Julia was rushing down the hall, and she never ran.

Thinking all this very strange, Seven tried to peek into Director Nero’s office. Having never felt the need to, he discovered that even though Nero’s office did have a security camera, at the moment it was turned off. Nothing he did turned it on again. Trying Nero’s link, he found the same problem.

Frustrated, he pounded his fist into his bedroom wall. It stung. Tears welled up in his eyes, but he stubbornly refused to let them fall. He was really regretting that punch.

Suddenly, Seven’s eyes lit up. He found another meta-link signal coming from Director Nero’s office. It was well protected, though, and it gave him some difficulty to crack into, but after about fifteen minutes, he found his way in.

The information contained within gave him a shock, or the amount he couldn’t read did. Each file was marked ‘USCU Top Secret Information,’ with almost every word blacked out. It reminded him of the government files from two hundred years ago when they still paper. It was rather funny that these files still used the same process. Only mundane words like ‘the’ and ‘a’ were unmarked.

It disappointed him that he couldn’t read the information. He tried unencrypting it, but it seemed that the information wasn’t actually there. Seven found it strange to have a file but have most the information missing, not just encrypted. It told him that whomever this meta-link belonged to, they had a high enough position within the USCU to have knowledge of the files, but not enough to access the information within. But, still, with this little he found out, he felt that he was getting closer to his answers.

With that done, he switched over to camera view on the link and found himself moving down hallway A-24 with Director Nero beside him. Seven was startled. They were already at his doorway. Quickly he closed out of all his windows. He knew people couldn’t see them, but he couldn’t risk being distracted. Whoever it was that traveling with Director Nero was important enough to send Pandora scrambling, and that meant that person could have a very big impact on Seven’s fate. If there ever was a time to concentrate on being useful, it was now. His life depended on it.

The door to his room slid open, and two men walked in. Nero stood slightly behind the man in a crisp, blue uniform. The director shuffled nervously and adjusted his sleeves. The man stared at Number 7, and the boy stared back. Nobody spoke for several minutes before Nero hesitantly cleared his throat.

“Sergeant, here is the culmination of our research, Number 7.” The man gave a grunt in reply then turned to Seven.

“Boy,” he said, “I am Sergeant Andan Bach of the People’s Army of the United Social-Communist Union. Furthermore, I am now in charge of every aspect of your life. As of this moment, you are to hereby follow my orders. Should you resist or disobey any of my orders, you shall be punished accordingly. Am I understood?” Seven nodded.

Sgt Bach scowled. “Am I understood?” he repeated. Seven grew nervous. He hurriedly looked to Director Nero. Nero stared hard at him, and Seven grew more confused. Sgt Bach saw this. He swung his fist. It connected with Seven’s cheek and flung him into the wall.

“You are to answer with ‘Yes, Sir!’ and only ‘Yes, Sir!’ Moreover, I am the ultimate authority here! You are to look to me. If I catch you one more time, believe me, your punishment will be much harsher. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Sir,” Seven replied weakly.

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