⇢ authors: illegiblesigns and mouthwash
⇢ fandom: exo
⇢ pairing: various
⇢ 4866 words
⇢ pg-13 (possible disturbing content)
a/n: so this is the monster we created one night when we were both complaining about our writers block. i know this is a lot of words for a prologue but bare with us ;~;
“My fellow Athenians, I'm deeply honored to have been chosen to be your leader during these difficult times.”
Dr. Park took another sip of his coffee. It was almost 10pm and he had been awake for the past forty-eight hours, but he wasn’t tired in any shape or form. In the contrary, his brain was working like an engine, constantly going over formulas and specific little equations. Everything had to be perfect. This was his only chance.
He didn’t even notice the television was on. The images were a blur at first until his eyes were focused on the projections on the wall in front of him. A crowd roared waving blue flags and pictures of their new youthful and fierce elected president. Suddenly there she was, standing behind bulletproof glass, the cyan and white of the Athenian flag stretched out behind her. She took a step back, turned on her heels, and kissed the flag slowly. The crowd reacted wildly, cheering her name over and over. She turned back to face them and took her original stance in front of the microphone. Cameras flashed to capture her bright smile.
“Today we celebrate the beginning of a new era. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the current situation of our world. Threats to our safety are being made overseas. The past administration slept soundly as our enemies roamed freely, giving them the opportunity to get stronger, and letting them commit gruesome crimes against humanity.”
Dr. Park heard two beeps coming from behind him, the door hissed open, and his assistant walked in with an elated expression plastered all over his young face. The doctor noticed he was holding a thick stack of papers.
At last, he thought.
“Doctor, the paperwork just came through. We just need your signature then we’ll be clear to go ahead with the procedures,” he said excitedly, dropping the stack in front of his boss. “Seems like President BoA didn’t want to wait a single second.”
“You’re a fool if you think the president makes these decisions. Her people have been pestering me for days. Even before the election results came out.”
His eyes went back to the images on the wall.
“We are not a nation that simply sits by and watches as cities are burned to the ground. This is why all of you rallied and called for change. You put trust in me and I will go above and beyond to meet all your expectations. You asked for someone who was brave enough to take action. So today, I'm declaring war.”
A dark smile reached Dr. Park’s lips. “How surprising.” He said and rolled his eyes.
He skimmed through the first couple pages, his anxiety not allowing him to actually focus on the words. He had already gone over all this information many times at different meetings with senators and military representatives. He turned over to the last page where his signature was required. Cursing under his breath. He hated how the government seemed to love these ancient procedures.
“This would be much easier if they’d let us use digital biometrics,” he complained before pulling out a pen from his coat pocket, scribbling his signature on the marked spot, and sliding the stack of papers back over to his assistant.
“They sure like sticking to old traditions,” the young assistant said before turning his attention over to the projection of President BoA. “Do you really think we can win this war, Dr. Park?” The doctor frowned.
“As of right now, the war fought outside these walls doesn’t concern us. All we have to do is focus on is making this project an absolute success,” the doctor voice was stern. The young assistant lowered his eyes and simply nodded in return.
The reality was that the doctor could careless about the war. It came in the right time when he needed funding for his project, and the government was exceptionally willing to give him as much capital as he needed in return for a weapon that would affirm Athena's military supremacy once and for all. Surprisingly enough, the officials mantained their interest despite of the many warnings that the project would take a decade or more before showing any results. He had to deliver positive results to them. His reputation and possibly his life was on the line. He knew that if the outcome was unsatisfactory, government wouldn't forgive him for spending all that precious time and resources, and Dr. Park didn't want to spend the rest of his life locked away in a dark cell. From start he knew this was a one-way ticket.
“We cannot let the New World be threatened by a nation who neglects its own people. A nation led by a power hungry dictator who will stop at nothing to achieve his malicious goals. I ask you, my fellow Athenians, to remain brave and strong as you always were and I promise you that as long as I'm commander in chief, I will not rest until evil is conquered and brought to justice. Only then we will all be able to sleep with ease. Right now, our most talented minds are working on creating a weapon so powerful it will make our enemies weep and our brave men in blue of military are assembling to go forth and avenge the innocent lives taken by that monster overseas.”
“Are Prototypes 0 and 1 ready?” Dr. Park asked, starting to gather his things, anxious to get moving with the procedure that would either make or break him. It wasn’t the first time he conducted a gene mutation experiment, at least not officially.
“Tell the project managers to start making their way to Prototype 0’s procedure room. I’m giving it maximum priority. Call up the General too. Actually, make an announcement for all the staff. I want them all to watch,” he said proudly, standing up from his chair, his eyes turned over to the President’s speech again.
“Today is a historical day for our beautiful nation. Today is day we decided to strike back and not sit idly as the New World, which we all build with our bare hands from the ashes of the nuclear holocaust, is in peril. We are taking a stand against evil because we, Athenians, are the leaders of the New World. So I ask you, all of you, to serve your beloved Athena in any way you can and help me win this war. As of right now, I'm not only your president. I'm your friend, your sister. I will stand by all of you and together we will lead the world out of darkness. Thank you. God bless Athena.”
“God bless Athena,” Dr. Park repeated sarcastically. He turned off the television with a voice command and exited the room, as his head pounding with fear and excitement.
“Attention Project Exo staff,”
Victoria lifted her head from the book she was devouring, slightly annoyed for the interruption because it was just now it was getting to the good part. This one she had borrowed from the library of an old friend. Its pages were yellowed and the binding was falling apart, but the story was so engaging, she hasn't been able to put it down. The New World’s books, if you could call digital files projected on a screen actual books, paled in comparison.
“Today, we are officially starting our project. Doctor Park invites you all to witness the awakening of Prototypes 0 and 1.”
Victoria snapped her book shut. She looked around the room and noticed that others were just as shocked. They knew that the project was set to start as soon as the elections were over, but they didn’t expect it to be so soon. President BoA's inauguration ceremony had just ended minutes ago. She didn't even bother to watch, but after hearing staff members gossiping on the corridors on her way to the cafeteria, she knew that the president had declared war. It wasn't like they weren't expecting it. The whole reason why she was elected in the first place was because the general public wanted war, and she was more than willing to give it to them.
Two soldiers entered the employee's living area. The entire staff was there that night, except for the main scientists and a few doctors. Sometimes it was hard for her to believe that she had already been there for two months, working twelve-hour days together with another professor named Sunny, who ended up becoming her closest friend. Together they were developing an appropriate curriculum to teach the so-called "prototypes" various subjects. Having no idea what her students would be like, she was excited to finally start.
“Please follow us to the procedure rooms,” one of the soldiers said mechanically.
They all stood up in unison, making a single file line in front of the soldiers. There weren’t many of them. She counted roughly fifteen, all nurses, military personnel, and lab assistants. Victoria and Sunny were the only professors who were selected for this project.
They get in the elevators in turns. Victoria and Sunny managed to be in the first group, they stand in silence in the elevator when Victoria noticed the short girl beside her beaming with anticipation.
“I wonder what they are like,” Sunny said chirpily. “I always hear the nurses going on and on about how adorable they are.”
Victoria shook her head. Of course she had heard the nurses commenting on the prototypes ever since she got there, but there was some eerie about calling a so-called weapon cute. It was just plain weird.
They arrived at the observation deck quickly. The procedure room stretched out below them. It was vast, with bright white walls, and so well lit it was giving her a headache. She noted the doctors and scientists she was used sharing lunch and polite small talk with were all there. This time with serious expressions as they busily prepared the equipment and went over checklists. There was an empty metal table in the middle of the room, but Prototypes 0 and 1 were nowhere to be found. Suddenly there was a commotion in the deck, coming from behind them, and Victoria whip her head around.
“There's General Changmin,” Sunny whispered. “God, I can’t get over how insufferably hot he is.”
Victoria never really understood the appeal of the general. Yes, he was handsome, a powerful man, and very influential. Almost too perfect to be real, and that was her issue. Freaking robot, she thought as he wiggled his way through the staff and stood tall and proud in his uniform right beside them.
“Welcome, General. Thank you for coming in such short notice.” A young lady wearing a lab coat approached him, bowing slightly.
“Thank you, Mrs. Seohyun,” Changmin said sharply. “Please inform your supervisors about my arrival. Are they ready to start?”
“Yes, sir. We are just waiting for Prototype 0 to be brought over. Dr. Park will be administering the procedure himself,” she replied calmly, smiling politely. Changmin gave her a brisk nod and shoved his hands in his pockets impatiently.
“Excuse me,” Sunny spoke while raising a finger, Victoria thought she resembled an elementary school student about to ask a silly question. “I'm supposed to be Prototype 1's tutor, actually. Where will his procedure be held?”
“Its procedure will be held next door. I can escort you there and grant you access, if you’d like,” Seohyun said correcting her with a condescending tone. Sunny got the message quickly, dropping her eyes to the floor and letting out a shy “Yes, please” before leaving the room guided by the young scientists.
Victoria bit her lip when she noticed that she was now, standing right next to General Changmin. The two of them have never talked much outside the routine meetings.
“Have you seen the Prototypes, General?” She asked, a silly question, but she had to try to make conversation. Awkward silences weren't really her thing.
“Yes,” he said curtly.
“I heard one of the nurses call him Jongin the other day.” She continued absentmindedly. “Cute name for a little boy. It comes from Korean-”
“What?” He snapped, cutting her off. “These people should be reprimanded immediately. Prototype 0 is not a little boy. It is a weapon. Any attempt to humanize it could jeopardize the whole project.”
Victoria shuddered at his tone but tried her best not to look troubled. Her only fear was losing her job or being the reason other people lost their jobs, but she wasn’t at all scared of him.
He’s just a tool, a toy in the hands of government.
Before she could say anything else, the main entrance in the procedure room hissed open, revealing a nurse wearing a surgical mask and gloves. She led a very young boy by the hand.
Every single detail about this child end up engraved on Victoria’s mind forever. From his tanned skin tone, such a nice shade that complimented his pitch-black hair, to the unsettling look on his dark brown eyes. It's clear that the physical contact, even through layers of clothing, was making him very uncomfortable.
“It’s never been outside the nursery before,” Changmin said almost to himself. “I bet it never had any kind of real human contact.”
“I didn’t expect him to be so young.” Victoria allowed herself to say, ignoring the general’s reproving look.
They place the boy on the operating table, strapping him down, and covering his mouth with a mask. His eyes wandered around the room in confusion. Victoria wondered if anyone had actually explained what was going to happen to him.
Poor thing probably has no idea what's going on.
Another doctor quickly inject what she assumed to be some sort of sedative and the boy drifted off to sleep almost immediately. As soon as they finished connecting all the cables on his body, the machines around them started beeping along with his vital signs. Victoria didn’t even see when Doctor Park entered the room since her eyes were glued to the boy, who was breathing in and out peacefully, chest rising and falling in a perfect rhythm along with his heartbeats. She started to get worried sick.
“If they are gonna cut him open I don't think I can–”
“Shh!” Changmin looked annoyed.
“I swear I don't wanna see a child–” Victoria felt all her muscles contract in panic, the tension was making her body entire hurt.
“Can you shut up?” He hissed. “It will be okay. These people know what they are doing.”
Victoria felt a little satisfaction in seeing that the almighty General Changmin was just as tense as she was. She turned her attention back to the room below, Dr. Park was holding a metal suitcase, grinning madly, waving at the crowd that gathered above him. He dropped the case in a counter top, clinking it open with urgency, and revealing a thick syringe containing a light blue liquid. He lifted it up, holding it proudly like a first place trophy.
“This,” he bellowed theatrically. “Is the serum I created. It contains the perfect combination of new D.N.A and radiation that will cause a specific gene mutation, giving Prototype 0 an unique ability.” The scientists around them all murmured words of admiration and Doctor Park fed off the energy, putting his shoulders back, as he glided across the room. “Prototype 0 will be able to transfer its own matter from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them.”
“Why can't he speak plain fucking English?” Changmin grunted. Victoria turned to face him, a little offended at his language.
“I think he's saying that he’ll be able to teleport,” she whispered in disbelief. This was something straight out of the fantasy books she was used to reading. Could it really happen? Was Dr. Park really able to create a tool that could give people superpowers?
The doctor gave the observation deck one final look and lowered his eyes to the syringe in his hands, mumbling something that looked like it could have been a prayer. He lets out a deep breath and injected the liquid into the little boy’s IV. Victoria felt something bubbling up in the pit of her stomach as the room fell dead silent, except for the beeping noises of the heart monitor.
A second goes by before the boy's body starts stirring violently. He looked like he was having a seizure.
Victoria brought her hands to her face.
He was dying.
The doctors held him down. They seemed calm and collected, like all of this was expected. The spectators around her, however, were all in a total state of shock. They were all holding their breaths. Victoria even saw a couple of people walk out with disgust written all over their faces, and for a quick second she considered doing the same herself. Doctor Park put his hands up, calling the attention of the crowd.
“It’s alright,” he shouted. “This is the exact reaction we were waiting for.” The smile on his face looked manic.
After a couple more seconds, Prototype 0's trembling began to stop and the heart monitor proceeded to beep wildly. Then, he collapsed. The machine let out one long beep indicating that he had no pulse. Victoria gasped, reaching out for Changmin’s hand.
“SHOCK IT!” Doctor Park screamed to the doctor who was standing by the defibrillator.
He ran over to the table and obliged. The boy’s body jerked up before falling back on the metal table with a loud thud. His pulse came back strong and he jolted awake, removing the mask that covered his face, gasping for air. Victoria let out a sigh of relief. His eyes snapped open and his pupils turned light blue, the same color of the liquid that was injected in him, and then a minute later they faded back to their normal dark brown color.
“Did it work? Is he gonna be okay?” Victoria cried, tightening her grip on Changmin’s hand.
“It better. According to the contract, they are supposed to awaken five more Prototypes. Shit, no training in the world could have prepared me for this.”
A nurse approached the table, putting her hand on Prototype 0’s forehead, pushing his hair back before giving him yet another injection. It was another sedative, and the boy fell back into a peaceful slumber as if nothing had even happened. It didn't take long for him to be wheeled out of the room. All the doctors and scientists on the floor looked at each other with pleased expressions. Victoria couldn't help but wonder what would happen when the boy came to. If he really couldn’t have any kind of human contact, that meant that nobody would be by his side when he woke up, nobody would be there to explain to him what he went through. She closed her eyes as tight as she could, trying to erase those kinds of thoughts. Prototype 0 wasn't of her concern, they always told her.
Soon Dr. Park was left alone in the procedure room. The man clearly could not contain his excitement, walking back and forth, and smiling as he mumbled inaudible words. He removed his surgical mask, his eyes were full of ecstatic tears.
“The procedure was a success!” He announced before exiting the room with a bow.
Applause filled the room.
TWELVE YEARS LATER
For a high security building, the Research Center sure did have a lot of windows. Victoria found herself sitting by one of them. It was Sunday, and most of the staff had left to enjoy their day off. Victoria didn’t have anywhere to go. Actually, she didn’t have anywhere she wanted to go.
With a book between her hands, she let her mind get lost in the story. This was her own way of taking a vacation from her job, which she never expected to be so demanding.
Her moment of peace didn’t last for very long.
Red lights flashed as the familiar alarm blasted, echoing around the room, sending shivers down her body.
This can’t be good.
She ran to the elevator, heart thumping like a drum inside her chest. When the doors slid open, her eyes found General Changmin’s. One look and she knew exactly what had happened.
“It’s Kai–He just–“ His voice had lost his usual tone of authority.
The fact that Changmin had called Prototype 0 by the name the boy chose for himself made Victoria’s stomach drop. Changmin never stepped a toe out of line and the name Kai was not welcomed by the project leaders. Even after the boy insisted on being called by his chosen identity, the people around him simply ignored his pleads. He was Prototype 0, a weapon, a thing.
Kai became dangerously rebellious and the leaders responded by taking away all small privileges he had, keeping him isolated in a dark room. Kai was tortured and confined in a metal cage most of his life and they were fools if they thought the day which he would finally fight back wouldn't come.Who could hold in a boy with the ability to teleport? Victoria did all she could to change Kai's situation, but she wasn’t a big authority figure so her opinions on the subject weren’t really taken into consideration in their meetings. She wasn’t even allowed to teach him directly. She was instructed to send all the material over to the people responsible for him, who relayed over to Kai through a computer screen, alone in his holding area while the others could enjoy and benefit from the classroom experience. He was a bitter child who never really adapted to the walls that kept him in.
“He escaped. He keeps teleporting all over the building. We can’t catch him.” The General’s voice hits Victoria like a brick.
The main doors burst open, revealing a group of soldiers wearing Athena’s light blue uniform, they were all carrying rifles and from the look of things, Victoria knew that this wasn't going to end well.
“I told Sunny to go check on the others,” Changmin said, checking his gun and motioning for one of the soldiers to lead the way. “You need to go hide somewhere safe.”
“No! I can help! I can talk to him!” Victoria begged. “He listens to me, you know he does!”
“Don’t get involved in this,” he said as softly as he could, placing a hand on her cheek.
He disappeared between the other soldiers as they made their way out through the emergency stairs. Victoria couldn’t just stand there and do nothing. She had to find a way to help them, to help Kai.
She decides to go check on Sunny and the others, for the time being, eyes alert to any movement, ears looking for that familiar sound of Prototype 0 ripping through space. She made it to the boys’ dorm and found Sunny leading Baekhyun and Kyungsoo to their rooms.
“Mrs. Victoria!” Baekhyun cried. “I thought today was our day off. Why can't we go outside?”
“It’s just for a little while,” Sunny said. She looked at Victoria with a panicked expression. “We’ll let you know when you can come back out.”
Victoria placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. He hunched up and unwillingly made his way to his room. Sunny punched in a code on the on number pad located by the door and it closed with a hiss, locking itself. She turned her attention to Kyungsoo, who seemed to have picked up on the tense atmosphere.
“Something happened,” he muttered, eyes wide, and color draining from his face. Kyungsoo was one of the most sensitive one. Victoria kneeled in front of him and pulled him close. His heart was beating so loud that she could feel it. She ran her hands through his thick black hair, trying her best to calm the boy down.
“Don’t worry, okay?” She whispered to him. “We’ll take care of this. Nothing is gonna happen to you. Go to your room. Do the breathing exercises I taught you, remember those?”
He nodded, taking a deep breath and making his way to his room. Sunny was already typing the numbers in when a loud crack made her stop.
Prototype 0 appeared right in front of her, his clothes were torn, and he had a gash on his forehead that bled into the side of his face. His eyes were dark and determined. Victoria wanted to scream, to pull him in and tell him to stop, tell him that things were going to be different from now on, and that she was going to take care of him. She knew he was scared and he was only acting out to show everyone that holding him in a cage was futile. He had this amazing ability and they expected to force him use it for their own benefits. They had no one to blame for themselves for this and Victoria knew that if this did not end well, she would blame herself as well.
It all happened too quick.
Kyungsoo dropped to the floor, eyes seeming like they were about to pop out of his face. Kai looked around the room to make sure they were alone. Before Victoria could do anything, he grabbed Sunny by the arm, the girl flinched, trying break free from his grasp but it was worthless. A second later both of them had vanished. Leaving Victoria shaking in absolute horror.
There were loud noises coming from the window that showed the courtyard, and outside training area, she saw two helicopters flying above the building, men with snipers hanging from the doors. The whole place was surrounded.
She ran over to check on Kyungsoo, who was on his knees on the floor, his big eyes glittering with tears.
“Breathe, Kyungsoo,” Victoria told him, taking her own advice and pulling in a deep breath.
“I’ll be fine,” he said wiping his tears on his sleeve and inhaling intensely. “Go!”
She tried to give him a smile, but her face was petrified with anxiety. Running out the room, punched in the code and the door closed. When she looked out the window again, she saw two figures standing in the middle of the courtyard. She gasped when she finally recognized their faces. Kai had a tight grip on Sunny’s arm. She cried violently, entire body shaking with each sob.
Victoria darted as fast as she could, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and almost tripping on her way down. When she got to the first floor, there was a sea of military men in light blue and lab staff standing around the edges of the open area. Eyes filled with morbid curiosity since almost of them had never laid eyes on Prototype 0 before. As she was trying to fight her way through the crowd, she heard Changmin’s voice echoing loudly through a megaphone.
“Prototype 0, you are surrounded. Let the Professor go.”
Victoria looked around the area, there were maybe fifty gunmen pointing their weapons at the boy. They could hit him from any angle. She couldn’t hold in her despair anymore, she dropped to her knees and sobbed openly, realizing that there was nothing she could do.
“Prototype 0.” Changmin tried again, pronouncing every syllable carefully. “Teleport back to your holding area immediately.”
The boy simply shook his head. Sunny let out a long scream that made Victoria’s blood run cold in her veins.
“Please, please,” she repeated endlessly, looking at the boy who remained still and expressionless.
“Kai, please.” Changmin sounded desperate. “You have five seconds to let the professor go and surrender. Or we’ll shoot you.”
“NO!” Victoria yelled. This was it, she was going to watch him die and there was nothing she could do.
One of the soldiers held her by the arms, keeping her in her place as she wept, begging for him to let her go. When Changmin started counting, and she simply couldn’t look anymore. The soldiers were all just waiting for his signal. Kai pulled Sunny closer to him and she closed her eyes tightly.
“Two!” Changmin counted, voice shaking.
Victoria managed to free herself from the soldiers grasp, moving closer, she was maybe ten feet away from them when someone stopped her again.
Kai turned his head to face Sunny. “Think of a nice place. Somewhere safe. Far away from here,” he said with a clear and unaffected voice, as if this was all part of a big scheme and everything had gone according to plan.
“One!” Changmin motioned towards the gunmen.
“Now,” Kai whispered and Sunny nodded fiercely.
Kai lifted his left hand and all of them watched helplessly as he and Sunny disappeared with a snap. A couple of gunmen tried their luck, but the bullets only reached the ghosts of their figures and vacant air.
It was over.
Prototype 0 had escaped.