Copyright © 2017 by Kell Frillman
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Author’s Notes :
In early 2015, I had a strange dream. The remnants of its emotional impact stuck with me throughout the day until I pushed through my stubbornness and jotted down the key details that I could still remember. That strange dream morphed into my debut dystopian Dark World Series.
All six books of the series (at the moment that I’m writing this, two are published and the third is in its editing phase being prepared for a release on March 30, 2018) are told through the eyes and ears of one particular character, Ruby R-1046. As I developed this strange futuristic world and the characters that comprised it, I found myself curious about the histories and motivations of the people that Ruby meets along her personal journey. I decided that I wanted to expand the world beyond what Ruby alone sees and experiences, but as I already had the series underway in a specific format, I had to think of another creative way to give other characters a voice. I decided that I would begin a sporadic series of short stories all told through the eyes of other various characters that I found particularly complex and interesting.
This short story, and others to come, are blog-exclusive story expansions, and they will not be available in Print. “Amethyst” serves as a companion story to the second installment of the Dark World Series, but it is my goal for these short stories to be capable of standing on their own two feet as well. Although I admit that (hopefully if I’ve done my job correctly!) certain bells of familiarity will ding in your mind if you have read the first two novels of the series prior, “Amethyst” also offers its unique introduction into the Dark World Universe and you as a reader shouldn’t feel lost or confused if you have not first delved into the core novels.
In short, if you haven’t read the novels, this story should still make sense! 😉 Lastly, the Dark World Series is written with an intended young adult audience in mind. However, ”Amethyst” is a bit darker than the core novels simply because the main character, Amethyst, was exposed to some of the worst aspects of the Dark World Universe from a young age. I wouldn’t be true to her character if I had attempted to sugar-coat any of the events in her life, and those events are what made her the woman she became who plays an important role in Ruby’s life, even if Ruby doesn’t realize it. Consider this your fair trigger-warning! I hope you enjoy this companion story. There will be more to come!
Amethyst desperately wanted to believe that it was possible to hate her mother without being a horrible, traitorous daughter. Every time she unwillingly had to deal with Commander SueLee’s stern, disapproving face and every time she was forced to listen to her sharp angry words of judgment, she was overwhelmed with an all-consuming desire to claw her skin off.
Not all daughters despised their mothers, but then again, not all mothers resented their daughters. Amethyst had never been good enough for Commander SueLee. Her mother was obsessed with eugenics and when she took over The Complex from her father before her in the year 2056, she became consumed with her theories about genetic manipulation and controlled breeding. She decided that her purpose in life was to “improve” what she viewed as a failed species. She blamed the flaws of humanity for the invasion of 2022, claiming that weakness and arrogance was the lethal combination that made us easy targets for other races to pillage.
Amethyst knew that the future of humanity was fragile, but while her mother blamed the invasion, Amethyst blamed her mother. The invasion of 2022 left many dead and the rest starving in a post-apocalyptic world in which our oceans were completely decimated. The government rounded up the survivors and ushered them into a giant fall-out shelter that became known as The Complex. Believing the surface of the planet to be toxic and unlivable, humanity was been confined underground ever since.
Commander SueLee encouraged her group of elite scientists to manipulate her genetics in hopes of giving birth to a child with the PIE03 gene, which she believed would bring humanity one step closer to being able to tap into the many untapped abilities she was convinced the brain was capable of. The PIE04 gene, one more step from PIE03, in theory, would be responsible for slight chemical changes in the brain that would supposedly allow humans access to their dormant enhanced abilities. Amethyst had never excelled at science enough to understand her mother’s obsessive theories in their entirety, but SueLee once explained to her daughter that the PIE04 gene would provide a chemical-key that would unlock and wake up certain parts of the brain that “inferior” humans could not access.
To SueLee’s great humiliation and disappointment, Amethyst had not been born with the PIE03 gene. SueLee had never allowed her to forget that she was a failed experiment.
Eventually, Amethyst began to take pleasure in irritating her mother on purpose. Finding enjoyment out of spiting her mother was easier for her than dealing with the frustration of never being able to please her.
When she was fifteen years old, Amethyst shaved half of her head and wore her remaining platinum-blonde hair in spikes because her mother once told her that all beautiful woman wore their hair soft, long, and down around their shoulders. Amethyst dressed in all black because SueLee once told her that pastels complimented her skin tone. Being privileged enough to live in Core City, the “capital” of The Complex, Amethyst was not restricted to the uniforms issued to all citizens within the divisions. She was free to use clothing as a means of self-expression and she took full advantage.
Amethyst’s outward rebellion began with her appearance and soon seeped into both her attitude and her lifestyle. She knew her mother was ruthless in how she controlled The Complex and she deliberately baited her to react because at least a negative reaction focused on Amethyst was more desirable than watching her mother indulge in sadism toward the citizens.
Amethyst had been spoiled rotten as a baby, a toddler, and even as a young child by everyone except her mother. According to the flatfoots, the scientists, and the citizens, she was taught that she might as well be royalty. The way they doted over her was very confusing for her since her mother treated her like garbage. According to everyone else, she was the Commander’s daughter and that meant one day she would be expected to rule The Complex just like her mother, and her mother’s father before her. She had always been privy to information that average citizens did not need to know, and yet, with privilege came responsibilities. No child understands the “R” word, though, nor are they truly capable of excusing away horrible things in their minds as necessary sacrifices for the greater good.
Amethyst hadn’t always been an only child like every other child in The Complex, mandated by Doctrine to minimize inbreeding. In the year 2064 when she was six years old, her mother’s belly began to swell. Commander SueLee spoke to her daughter like she was an adult from the moment Amethyst could understand language, and she explained that her swelling belly meant a fetus was developing. She explained what a fetus was but all Amethyst understood was that she was going to be the only child in The Complex who was allowed to have a sibling!
Commander SueLee was quick to shut down Amethyst’s excitement. She further explained that a fetus was not yet a child, but a clump of growing cells that had the potential to become a human being if there were no major genetic anomalies. She was artificially inseminated because she wanted one more chance to birth a child with the PIE03 gene.
Amethyst was already enchanted at the idea of being special enough to have a sibling, so her mother’s insistence that the fetus was not to be referred to as a baby made her pout.
“Don’t EVER make that face when it comes to science!” SueLee snapped at her young daughter. “It is our duty and responsibility to cultivate only strong, healthy humans down here! We don’t know yet if this fetus will become a successful human being.”
The memory of the day SueLee gave birth would forever be etched into Amethyst’s mind as an imprint of her first of many nightmares. Although as a young adult Amethyst understood that the memories of childhood were slightly distorted, a day never went by when she didn’t hear the faint echoes of her mother’s horrendous screams, or the soaking, gooey appearance of what seemed like buckets upon buckets of blood as it seeped out of her mother’s body to soak the sheets between her legs.
The birth of Commander SueLee’s second child was a difficult one. The GP ended up having to perform an emergency hysterectomy which meant SueLee would never carry a fetus again.
There was something wrong. The child did not cry immediately upon birth and the GP’s brow wrinkled with concern. The child was placed in an incubator and quickly wheeled away. Having been forced to be present in the birthing room with her mother, young Amethyst was traumatized, overwhelmed, and confused. Despite SueLee’s strict instructions that Amethyst was to remain exactly where she was, she clutched her toy doll tight to her small body and toddled after the GP as he wheeled her sibling away.
“Wait! I want to see it! I want to see!” She pleaded desperately but the GP did not pause nor turn around as if Amethyst’s desperation was inconsequential. A moment later a tall-as-a-pole scary man dragged the young child back into her mother’s infirmary room and brutally spanked her on her mother’s orders. Amethyst screamed for the first three spankings, but when she raised her head to pleadingly search her mother’s face mercy, there was none to be found in her cold, ice-blue eyes. Amethyst let her tears fall silently through the rest of her punishment.
Later that evening SueLee forced her traumatized body out of her cot and grabbed Amethyst by her hair. She yelped and her mother released her. “Follow me,” SueLee commanded. Trembling and biting back sobs, Amethyst cradled her doll to her chest and followed her mother tentatively as she waddled painstakingly down the hallway. SueLee pressed her thumb to the print pad and a door slid open. Amethyst frightfully followed her mother into the room and gasped when she raised her eyes upward and noticed the same incubator she knew her baby sibling was in.
Mom changed her mind! I can have a sibling!
SueLee turned toward her daughter with her stern lips pressed together. “Go on, look inside.” Amethyst bounced on the balls of her feet and approached the incubator. She rose on her tiptoes and peered inside at the tiny infant hooked up to wires. She quickly stumbled backward and her doll slipped from her arms and fell to the floor with a momentarily forgotten thud.
Babies weren’t supposed to look like that, all burn-pink in color and strangely wrinkly, and so small! They were supposed to look like her doll; big eyes, smooth skin, a cute smile upon their rosy lips! Before she could process the strange creature she had just seen, SueLee stepped between Amethyst and the incubator. “What have I told you about our breeding responsibilities down here?” Amethyst choked back tears. She couldn’t bring herself to look into her mother’s unfeeling eyes. SueLee leaned forward and wrapped her large hands around her daughter’s small shoulders. “WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU?”
“Y-you said that only healthy babies can live because we have limited resources down here and we can’t waste them on rejects. You said that babies have to have good genes.” She didn’t know what all of those words meant at such a young age, she was simply parroting back her mother’s words out of fear.
“Do you think you have good genes?” Something about those words sent a wave of fear through Amethyst’s small body. She knew she didn’t have the PIE03 gene, but she didn’t know anything else. She knew she couldn’t ask her mother for comfort so she reached down and picked up her fallen doll, cradling it to her chest again.
“I – I don’t know-“
“You’re mediocre,” SueLee coldly interrupted. “You’re adequate enough to not be put to sleep, but as you know, I was hopeful that you would have the PIE03 gene, and you don’t.” SueLee pointed to the incubator. “Do you know what that is?” Amethyst trembled. “A reject. I was supposed to birth a child with the advanced gene – ME! As Commander, taking a mate-for-life would be a poor choice as he would inevitably grow more and more power-hungry and attempt to take over my leadership. All males are the same, Amethyst, inferior by their very brain chemistry, driven by their animalistic instincts rather than logic and thought. “Listen carefully. Males are only a means to an end. They are more primitive. They have enlarged frontal lobes which means they have less impulse control. I’ll explain this to you in more detail when you’re older, but it’s in the DNA of men to refuse to accept a woman of power as having equal or greater value than himself. That happened with your grandparents. My mother was more capable and intelligent than my father was, but Winston insisted he had to maintain leadership of The Complex, regardless. He never accepted her superiority. I chose to be wiser than them and I used the Genetic Matching System to provide me only with a donor. Your donor did not give me what I hoped for with you, so I tried once more and all I got was this reject!” She jabbed her finger at the incubator. “Now I can never try again! Not only does this thing not possess the PIE03 gene, but its organs are premature and its immune system is underdeveloped. We can’t have that, Amethyst. We cannot allow a child with vast imperfections and what they call ‘special needs’ to drain our precious resources. With power comes responsibility, and as a Commander who is responsible for the future of our species, it is my job to look out for the best interest of The Complex.”
Amethyst trembled even more. “No,” she cried out before she could stop herself. She didn’t even understand what her mother was saying, but she knew that whatever happened next, it would be Bad.
“LOOK AT ME,” SueLee snapped. “Do NOT say no to me! This is my duty and one day it will be yours because there is no one else!” Without another word, SueLee turned away from her young daughter and opened the incubator. She looked over her shoulder. “Come here, I insist that you watch this. Get it through your head that making tough choices is part of your duty as future Commander.” Amethyst’s tiny body trembled with terror at the idea of looking at the thing again, but she was even more terrified not to. She knew that disobeying her mother came at a very hefty price.
SueLee slowly lowered her hand into the incubator and covered the wrinkly thing’s face. Amethyst didn’t understand what she was doing, but about ten seconds later, all sorts of beeping noises went off. Confused and startled, Amethyst whipped her head around. The GP that delivered her sibling was seated on a chair with his back against the wall. He observed the scene in front of him with no reaction at all. The beeps continued to sound until they changed from shrill bursts to one slow, steady hum. SueLee removed her hand from the incubator and turned away from it. “No rejects,” she emphasized again to Amethyst before grabbing her hand and yanking her toward the door. Amethyst’s doll fell to the ground, but her mother yanked her again before pressing her thumb to the print pad. She reached for her doll, but one more yank tore her through the door and out of the room. Amethyst was forced to leave her sibling behind along with the doll she cherished, the only thing that brought her any comfort.
A few years went by before Amethyst was able to fully comprehend what she saw that day, her mother smothering her baby sibling, putting her to sleep as she called it, without an ounce of emotion, guilt, or regret, but the nightmares that began that very evening dug themselves a permanent home inside of her traumatized mind and no matter how much time went by, they never left.
When Amethyst was ten years old, Commander SueLee took her on what she assumed was a routine visit to the science labs in Core City. She was placed on a stool in one of the genetics rooms and told to remain quiet while her mother and the head geneticist discussed his latest findings. She rested the arches of her feet up against one of the bars on the tall stool, folded her hands in her lap, and kept her mouth shut and her eyes open.
Don’t talk back. Don’t give her a reason to punish you.
Amethyst was still small and the fear she had of her mother dominated every breath she took. She knew she was mediocre. She knew she wasn’t the child her mother wanted. After the complications SueLee suffered from the difficult birth of Reject-Baby, she was no longer able to have children or even extract her eggs since her entire reproductive system had to be removed. Without the possibility of being able to try once more to fulfill the legacy she wanted for herself, it seemed as though SueLee resented Amethyst even more for not having the genetic advance she expected her offspring to possess.
“Did the results come back?” Commander SueLee pressed the geneticist, Felix, with a sharp, impatient tone. Amethyst expected him to mutter and rummage through papers at her mother’s behest, but instead, a silent, disturbing smile tugged the corners of his long, thin, villainous lips upward.
“And??” The geneticist took a breath and moved his shoulders forward, obviously enjoying SueLee’s irritated suspense. Amethyst hooked her pinkies together and lifted her hands to press them against her chest. She had never seen someone successfully emotionally control her mother before, she didn’t know it was possible!
“The ginger-girl from Division Rhode Island, R-1046, has the mutation we’ve been trying to achieve. She has the PIE03 gene.”
“That’s definite?” The geneticist nodded.
“Yes. The test was conclusive beyond any shadow of a doubt.” Silence followed and Amethyst’s secret pleasure in watching how the geneticist had managed to successfully force her mother to wait a few extra seconds for the information she demanded dwindled. Her hands fell to her lap again.
That was the gene SueLee had hoped Amethyst would have, and she did not. Same with Reject-Baby. Now that some other child in one of the divisions was found to have the gene, did that mean that Amethyst would be replaced? Even at ten years of age, the momentary thought that perhaps she would be sent to the transitional containers gave her some peace. She didn’t want to grow up and rule over The Complex, especially if the “responsibilities” of ruling meant smothering babies just because they were imperfect or considered inferior in some way. Maybe her mother wouldn’t want her anymore, maybe she’d want this other child instead!
“How is her behavior?” Commander SueLee inquired.
“She’s known to be quite inquisitive and she challenges her teachers,” the geneticist commented after a moment’s hesitation. SueLee frowned and tapped her fingertips on the metal countertop with displeasure. “We had to terminate her grandmother for similar behavior. High intelligence mixed with a certain degree of rebelliousness is in her family line.”
“We knew that the PIE03 gene would be tied to heightened intelligence, and R-1046’s IQ is well above average. I suggest we contact personnel in Division Rhode Island and have them keep a careful watch on the child’s continued physical and behavioral development.”
“Division Rhode Island … wasn’t there an incident there just a year or two ago?”
“Yes, an unauthorized pregnancy. We sentenced the girl to death via the surface and vocationally relocated her suspected lover. The guilt we knew he’d carry for being responsible for her death seemed like a better message than also putting him to sleep.”
“Rhode Island is a small division. Are we certain the Genetic Matching System is at optimum functionality? I don’t want rejects being bred under our immediate radar, it’s too much of a waste. Heightened intelligence is one thing but when tied to a rebellious nature, it poses a risk.”
“R-1046 is the first child born with PIE03. What do you wish to do if she questions too much? If her inquisitive nature escalates?” SueLee tapped her fingers again.
“We tell her division that she is being sent to the transitional containers as an example to those who would dare to defy Doctrine. Perhaps we even tell every citizen in The Complex in order to make a point. We then bring her here to Core City, contain her in the labs, study her, and breed her only if we are able to isolate her PIE03 gene from her undesirable qualities.”
A cold chill shuddered its way upward through Amethyst’s spine.
SueLee whirled around unexpectedly and caught Amethyst with widened, sad eyes and a trembling jaw.
“Stop that RIGHT NOW!” SueLee demanded as her palm whirled through the air and connected harshly with the side of Amethyst’s face. She bit the inside of her cheek to resist crying out in surprise and pain. She knew better than that by now. “The Complex is just a very large lab! These people in the divisions are guinea pigs and breeders! I’ve already explained this to you, we were failing as a species. We were destroying our planet long before the Invasion. We must advance our DNA, we have to change our most fundamental flaws or we will all die down here with only a whisper and all of our scientific efforts will be for nothing. Your grandparents were important. Despite Winston’s flaws in his stubbornness to see the superior brilliance of your grandmother, he shared her vision for the future of our species, a vision that we are obligated to uphold.” Amethyst quickly lowered her eyes. This was not the first time she’d heard this speech and she knew it would not be the last.
SueLee grabbed her daughter’s wrist and roughly yanked her off of her stool. Amethyst stumbled forward, then toppled back on her heels in order to try and regain her balance. “Come with me. It’s time you understood our duties once and for all.” She dragged her daughter out of the lab and pulled her all the way down to the end of a long hallway. Stepping into the shadows, SueLee nodded curtly to two flatfoot guards who remained motionless and expressionless before pressing her thumb to the print pad. A door slid open and she dragged Amethyst inside.
Amethyst first experienced horror when she watched her mother smother Reject-Baby, but nothing could have prepared her for the grotesque and vomit-inducing revelations in the room of torture that now surrounded her. Human-sized glass boxes were built into the walls side-by-side, and within each one, a naked, decrepit-looking living person was forced to stand with dozens of wires attached to his or her pale, discolored, sagging flesh. Tubes attached to bags of what looked like human waste burrowed into their stomachs. All of them were silent, but their eyes were bloodshot and blurred with the utter despair of abject helplessness. Most of them appeared elderly with wrinkled flesh and drooping bags under their eyes, but a few appeared as if they had barely reached adulthood. Amethyst’s stomach lurched and she wavered, but her mother yanked harshly on her wrist again. “STOP TREMBLING! Open your eyes. LOOK AT THEM. These specimens are serving an important purpose. They’ve either reached the age of sixty where most people are sent to the transitional containers, or they are Rejects!”
“I thought rejects weren’t allowed to live after they were born,” Amethyst replied before she could stop herself. After all, Reject-Baby had died by her mother’s very own hand.
“Now, yes, but these elderly people were either already alive before the invasion, or they were born down here before we had all of the current rules of Doctrine in place. As for the younger ones,” SueLee paused and wrinkled her nose. “There are aspects of their flawed genetics we need to study, so we can continue to optimize the functionality of the Genetic Matching System. They are helping to serve the future of humanity in the only productive way that they can.” Amethyst forced her eyes to remain open because she knew there would be a punishment if she looked away, but she couldn’t bring herself to truly see these poor, tortured people. She couldn’t bear to imagine the pain and fear they must suffer from every single moment that they remained contained and experimented on in such a humiliating and cruel way like this.
SueLee released Amethyst’s wrist and grabbed her chin. She jerked her daughter’s neck upward. “LOOK AT THEM, I SAID! Stop being useless! Stop forcing me to feel ashamed that you’re my daughter! This is going to end right here and right now, do you understand me? You are either going to accept your birthright, or-“
“Or you’ll send me to the transitional containers?” Even though Amethyst knew that her interruption would be viewed by her mother as insubordination, at that moment she was hopeful that her mother would say yes.
“Or, I’ll put you in one of these boxes, alive, just like the rest of these lab specimens.” Amethyst froze. That would be a fate far, far worse than death. At that moment at only the tender age of ten, Amethyst knew that the race she belonged to, the human race, would be far better off extinct. Perhaps that’s why Earth had been invaded back in 2022. Perhaps the rest of the Universe knew that, too.
SueLee never made good on her threat to dispose of her daughter in the Experimental Room despite how many snide comments Amethyst made as she entered her teenage years or how much effort she put into using her physical appearance to represent her resentment. The only form of punishment she ever received was being forced to stay at The Academy with the flatfoots-in-training for six months when she thirteen so she would “learn some discipline.” The Academy was rigid to a sociopathic level when it came to the semi-torturous brainwashing tactics used to churn out mindless, obedient Doctrine-enforcers referred to as flatfoots, but although Amethyst learned to play along on the outside, they never truly managed to break her spirit. After her time at The Academy, SueLee often ignored Amethyst altogether and behaved as if she didn’t exist.
The irony did not escape Amethyst that her mother constantly talked about rebellious people being genetically flawed and how they really should all be put to sleep, and yet, her daughter didn’t even try to hide her rebellious nature and she was never truly punished for it. Amethyst honestly didn’t know if her mother, despite pretending otherwise, actually did love and care for her, or if SueLee had simply lost interest in her altogether because of her obsession with R-1046.
Amethyst resented her mother for many reasons, but she also grew to resent R-1046. When her mother wasn’t tending directly to her duties as Commander, she was constantly drilling the most knowledgeable scientists in Core City about the ginger girl from Division Rhode Island with the PIE03 gene. SueLee constantly wanted to know what R-1046’s latest blood tests showed, whom the GMS would assign as her mate, what his genetic tests showed, and most importantly – what her behavior was like. She never said it out loud, but Amethyst suspected that perhaps her mother somehow hoped to groom R-1046 to take over The Complex once SueLee was gone instead of Amethyst. Amethyst’s opinion about taking over The Complex changed as she grew older. She had quietly decided that she did want the opportunity after all, but only because she wanted to change Doctrine once she was in power. Her mother desired to maintain her power by controlling the citizens through fear, whereas Amethyst dreamed of someday having the actual respect and even adoration of the citizens of The Complex. Maybe she was a cliche; having never experienced love, she craved some version of being truly accepted and important to someone, but she believed her desire for love prevented her from becoming as soulless as her mother.
Amethyst began undermining her mother in subtle ways in addition to the obvious ones. When people were discovered to be involved with each other outside of the GMS, the women were often banished up to the surface to die in the toxic cold. In a handful of instances, they had been pregnant but it made no difference to SueLee just as her own pregnancy had made no difference when her baby was born flawed. Amethyst dug around until she discovered the men that had been involved with these women, and she told them what had been done. She knew the truth would hurt them even more than not knowing, but she also knew they would be angry enough to spread the government’s dirty secrets among the citizens. She hoped that if the citizens learned the truth, they would fill with rage and turn against the government. SueLee thought she was so smart, but Amethyst inherently understood that ruling with fear was like a very thin thread stretched across a very large room. It didn’t take much pressure to snap it in two, and she intended on being that pressure. She just had to wait until her mother’s most vulnerable moment to make her move. Someday, the citizens of The Complex would see Amethyst as a hero.
When she was almost twenty, Amethyst was creeping down the hallways in the Core City science labs as she often did to eavesdrop. Her mother’s sharp voice caused her to pause in the shadows. She pressed her back against the wall and concentrated on the conversation. “How did we allow such incompetence in such an important division?! Lieutenant Jax, it was your job to station only the most efficient flatfoots in Division Rhode Island, and it was their job to keep a very close watch on R-1046 and directly report any act of defiance against Doctrine, no matter how small. If they would have done their damned jobs we wouldn’t be in this position right now! It’s a tiny division, how hard could it be to keep an eye on one teenager?”
“Commander, if you’ll just-“
“STOP TALKING! You have failed me, Lieutenant Jax. You have failed the citizens, you have failed the safety of The Complex. You are immediately relieved of your duties at The Academy, and you are sentenced to be put to sleep in the transitional containers.”
“Seize him,” SueLee commanded with a casual tone as if her rage from just a moment earlier had dissipated the moment she passed his fatal sentence. Amethyst quickly bolted down to the end of the hallway and turned a sharp right corner just before a few flatfoots dragged Jax out of the room of his last conversation.
“You won’t get away with all of this!” He shouted. “Do you think people won’t figure out that you’re insane? You’re obsessed with thinking you can improve the species based on nothing but theoretical genealogy and fringe science, and you’re senselessly killing what few of us are left down here, not to mention the poor stragglers on the surface!” Just as the flatfoots dragged Lieutenant Jax past the corner that Amethyst was hiding in, they paused. One of them kneed him in his stomach and then kneed his groin. Lieutenant Jax groaned in pain and doubled over. The other flatfoot released his arm and punched him in the head. Lieutenant Jax’s body went limp. The flatfoots gathered up his soon-to-be-dead weight and carried him off. Trembling, Amethyst remained in the shadows and listened for the clack-clack-clack of her mother’s heels behind them, but they didn’t come. Her mother didn’t even value what Jax had faithfully done for her all these years enough to see him to his death that she had ordered, and the flatfoots who had been trained at The Academy by Jax hadn’t hesitated to betray him at her command. Amethyst pressed her lips together as images of Reject-Baby flashed behind her eyelids, and flashes of her mother, much larger in her memory than she seemed to be now, putting her hand over the baby’s face to smother her. Commander SueLee was a monster. Amethyst had known that for years, but what was most dangerous about her was how others committed horrific acts on her command with blind obedience. SueLee valued no one except herself, and maybe R-1046. But even her interest in the ginger-girl was for nothing but self-serving reasons.
Only minutes after Jax was dragged off to his death, more flatfoots and scientists of Core City began hurrying past Amethyst’s hiding spot. She knew she could not get away with continuing to hide in the shadows, so she casually stepped out and walked as calmly as she could back toward the room that Jax had been sentenced to death in. “Amethyst,” SueLee rushed out and barked at her daughter. “Get in here!” With a cynical raised pierced brow, Amethyst rolled her eyes but reluctantly stepped inside. SueLee slammed the door shut. “R-1046 has crossed a line,” the Commander informed her daughter. “We could have avoided this if the flatfoots of Division Rhode Island weren’t incompetent morons…” she waved her hand with irritation. “As you know, R-1046 has the PIE03 gene. Unfortunately, she also has a rebellious nature, and she’s taken up a secret lover.” Amethyst couldn’t help but allow the corners of her lips to twitch upward in utter amusement. Big Scary Commander SueLee was being defied by a division teenager. She couldn’t just send R-1046 to the transitional containers or banish her to the surface or the Experimental Room, because R-1046 had something that SueLee desperately wanted. She couldn’t hope to bring R-1046 into the government fold, either, if she was so ‘rebellious.’ Amethyst practically hummed with amusement over her mother’s current predicament.
“So, why are you telling me?” Amethyst challenged as she folded her arms under her chest.
“The Lieutenant in charge of Division Rhode Island allowed R-1046, known casually as Ruby, and a few other rebellious fools to temporarily evade us, but these citizens have been provided for through their entire lives. They are inferior. They possess no practical survival skills and they can’t care for themselves.”
That’s because you’ve intentionally denied them proper education and the freedom to make their own choices, not because they lack natural intelligence, Amethyst thought to herself.
“We’ll have them in custody soon enough, but in the meantime, we’ve captured a group of useful prisoners, some rebels associated with R-1046. They’re currently en-route to Core City. You are going to help me use them as an example.” Amethyst was still stuck on hearing that her mother’s precious citizen, R-1046, had managed to evade flatfoots and escape her division in the first place. She made no effort to prevent an amused smirk from tugging the corners of her lips upward.
“Oh, am I?” She brazenly replied. SueLee narrowed her eyes but showed no sign of being surprised at Amethyst’s intentional snark.
“We’ve been too soft on the rebels.”
Yeah, torturing and experimenting on people while they’re alive and aware is lackluster.
“They’ve gotten too cocky. This is an important time for us all, not only have we finally achieved the PIE03 gene,” SueLee paused and Amethyst knew she was taking a moment to soak in her resentment that the person with PIE03 was just a lowly citizen, “but this teenager has been allowed to slip through the cracks. Now is the time for us to fine-tune genetic advancements. We must figure out how to maintain the progressive gene while curbing the rebellious impulses that seem to come along with it. We need that girl! We need her offspring, but we also need to make sure that the citizens are reminded of what happens when they dare to rebel against a government that takes care of their every need!” Amethyst’s muscles tensed underneath her skin. She despised it when her mother got riled up, it was like watching someone falling down the black hole of insanity that there was no coming back from. Amethyst fully believed by now that her mother was, in fact, clinically insane. “When the prisoners arrive, you will make a choice. You will either finally take your rightful place as my daughter, or you will be disposed of like the undeserving rebel that you have allowed yourself to become.”
It had been years since SueLee had honestly threatened Amethyst. The threat forced a cold chill to ripple down her spine but she refused to give her mother the satisfaction of seeing her tremble. She pressed her lips together and stood her ground. If her time of being ‘ignored’ was coming to an end, then her mother was right, she would have to make a choice.
The prisoners arrived and SueLee wasted no time giving in to her sadistic desires. Who was she kidding?! She wasn’t torturing people “for the good of The Complex” nor was Amethyst convinced that her mother believed her lies about caring about the continued survival of humanity. Everything SueLee was doing, she was doing to serve her own desires and nothing more. The ‘flawed person’ in The Complex was Commander SueLee herself; for Amethyst knew that humanity had no chance if her mother’s goal was to manipulate people, mentally and genetically, into being more like her.
In the Common Area of Core City, the parents of a young Division Rhode Island rebel-boy trembled with utter terror as SueLee loomed over them with pleasurable sparkle twinkling in her ice-blue eyes, rooted within her own madness. Amethyst shifted her gaze away. She knew she couldn’t save them. Although she suspected that rebels only existed because of the efforts she had made to spread the truth into the divisions, she knew she couldn’t save the lives of any of these prisoners.
The couple in their thirties had been relegated to their knees, bound and gagged. Scientists and flatfoots of Core City surrounded them for the “show” but the rest of The Complex only had to listen via Complex-wide audio broadcast. Amethyst envied them that they didn’t have to see what was about to happen. SueLee made a big show out of condemning rebels and claiming how people had forgotten to appreciate all that The Complex did for them, and then without hesitation, she raised the large, heavy mallet above her head. The only tiny comfort Amethyst had was knowing that her mother was so engrossed in her own violence that she wasn’t paying attention to whether Amethyst was watching or not, so she closed her eyes just before the mallet was swung. The sickening wet sound it made as it crunched down on one of the couple’s heads, like watermelon breaking into pieces after being dropped several feet, caused her stomach to churn but the bubbling, bloody moan of disoriented despair that escaped the victim’s mouth was an ear-piercing monstrosity that Amethyst knew would never leave her mind. The only comfort she had was that her mother hadn’t demanded she needed to carry out the sickening task with her own hands, but she knew SueLee meant what she said; it was a time of reckoning and she would have to make a choice. Amethyst wasn’t sure what choice she was going to ultimately make until her mother announced that R-1046 had finally been captured and she was on her way to Core City.
R-1046 was only a sixteen-year-old girl but Amethyst couldn’t allow herself to think about that. Fair or not, “Ruby,” simply by existing, could potentially bring her mother’s crazy ideas about advancing the humane race to fruition. What made it even worse is that discovering Ruby caused SueLee’s radical ideas to spin out of control. Amethyst had eavesdropped on another conversation her mother had with her favorite scientist, Felix, and now, her mother wanted to destroy a large chunk of the population in The Complex and only allow ‘the best of the best’ to survive. She was going to plan a genocide!
The news of R-1046’s capture came on Amethyst’s twentieth birthday. Unlike most citizens, Amethyst had not been married off age the age of eighteen. The inhabitants of Core City didn’t have to live by the same rules of Doctrine that citizens in the divisions did, and SueLee showed minimal interest in whether Amethyst mated or not. Everyone else seemed to assume that Amethyst was holding off on mating and breeding in order to focus on preparing to be the future leader of The Complex, but Amethyst, as well as SueLee, knew better.
Amethyst had to do something about R-1046 because she was the key to everyone else’s undoing. Was it her fault? Of course not and Amethyst knew that, but she despised her nonetheless. There were so many things that R-1046 didn’t know about. She was clueless about her own genetics and she had no idea that she had the PIE03 gene. She didn’t know that the world above The Complex wasn’t as much of a wasteland as the citizens were led to believe. Sure, the invaders of 2022 had pillaged the natural resources from Earth’s oceans, and the magnetic technology from their ships had inadvertently modified the planet’s axis, but the air above wasn’t poisonous and people were living up there. Of course, SueLee HATED that there were clans beyond her control, so she had manipulated select groups of citizens to go up there, hunt, and kill them by claiming that the Free-Earthers were feral monsters who needed to be put out of their misery.
Amethyst was going to tell Ruby everything, and then she was going to orchestrate Ruby’s escape to the surface.
Since the age of seventeen, Amethyst had been sleeping with a Core City flatfoot named Gerard. She had him wrapped around her little finger and she knew he’d do anything for her. At first, he was doubtful that her plan would work but it didn’t take much coaxing to get him to finally agree. He was in love with her, after all.
Amethyst knew something that her mother didn’t; she knew that SueLee’s hunting operation above ground had been compromised. The Free-Earthers had found the dome that citizens of The Complex had built as a training ground for the hunters, and they had taken it over. Gerard, who was often involved with operating the cylinder that led up to the dome above, didn’t always follow SueLee’s rules. At Amethyst’s coaxing, he had gone up unauthorized just two weeks prior. She had originally asked him to see if any Free-Earthers were being kept as Live prisoners in the dome, but discovering the take-over was so much better.
Gerard made a deal with a Free-Earther named Pearl that he would not inform The Complex of the takeover as long as the Free-Earthers agreed to keep R-1046 alive as their hostage when she was sent up, and under no circumstances were they to negotiate her return once their takeover was discovered.
It was fate, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Everything was falling into place. Amethyst took her opportunity to taunt Ruby and reveal the truth about her genetics. She knew that Ruby despised her and saw her as the enemy, but she didn’t mind. She despised Ruby, too. Her plan to keep Ruby alive was not a noble sacrifice, it was simply the only way she could provide the citizens with the eventual chance to take her mother down.
Gerard helped Ruby escape her captivity in Core City and led her to the cylinder. Amethyst played her role and pretended to try and stop them. R-1046 was clueless. Did she honestly think that she could escape such an organized military-run operation by herself with no knowledge and no skills? Did she honestly not realize that all of this was a set-up? Perhaps she was more like her mother than she thought because she did enjoy knowing that whatever happened next, for the rest of Ruby’s life, she would feel responsible for what was about to happen.
Amethyst almost chickened out at the last phase of her plan. She knew that if she lived, her fate would be far worse than death. Not only allowing, but intentionally orchestrating the escape of R-1046 was far beyond the small rebellious acts of shaving and spiking her hair, or making sarcastic comments. She was destroying her mother’s sinister plans, the plans she had been working for over twenty years to achieve. Amethyst could have left the room at any time, but as the hot orange flames flickered closer and closer to her flesh, she closed her eyes and waited. The pain would be great, she knew that, but in death, she would be set free. The only thing she had left to hold on to was the hope that if there was an afterlife, this final act for the greater good would exonerate her soul.
As the first flame licked the skin of Amethyst’s arm with its searing tongue, she screamed. The pain was greater than she could have ever imagined and even though her mind quickly retreated to its feral, survival-based instincts, she was unable to coordinate her body to push the button that would stop the fire. The flames ate through her clothes and the rancid smell of burnt flesh permeated the air around her. Her knees gave and her melting, burning body fell to the floor. The very last thing that she felt was her screams vibrating in her, out of her, and through her. There was room for nothing else.
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