Chapter Ten - Ghosts of the Past

Skye sat against the mast of the boat with his head between his knees, breathing deeply. Ever since their escape his lungs had felt strangely empty, never seeming to get quite enough air. Iris, despite his pleas for her to rest, had sailed them far enough from Whitesummet that it was merely an outline in the distance before setting anchor for the night. They hadn’t spoken much since the attack, probably for the best – he doubted that either of them had fully processed what had happened. A soft creak groaned from the deck behind him, and Iris smacked him across the back of the head before he could react.

“Ow! What was that fo-”

“You’ll have to have quicker reaction time than that. I coulda killed you by now if I wanted to,” she wheezed, sitting heavily against the opposite side of the mast.

“Iris! You have two broken ribs and a head injury at least, you should really-”

“Since when are you a doctor? I’m keeping watch for the night, deal with it.” He sighed, looking upwards as he lightly bumped his head against the wooden pole. Clusters of lumpy clouds dotted the sky, hiding the stars behind a wispy veil.

“What now, Iris? Neither of us are doing great, I don’t think, physically or…otherwise.” She rolled her eyes, wincing as she crossed her arms, settling in for the night.

“I’m fine, thanks. Listen, we still need to take down the order, or have you already forgotten about that murderous crab woman? Believe me, sooner or later they’re going to come after us again, and what then? We can’t just escape once and pretend everything’s fine, either they catch us eventually, or we take care of the problem at its source – the order’s base."

“Even if we knew where it was, what could we do? Against just one of their people, we barely managed a draw, if you could even call it that. There’s no way-”

Then I’ll find one,” Iris shouted, before giving in to a fit of violent coughing. She took a moment to catch her breath, before continuing. "You’re the only person in the seas I can actually trust, I don’t…we’re in this together, ok? Even if you are an idiot,” she muttered, reaching over to punch him in the arm. “Using an attack like that…I thought you were dead for a moment back there, ya jerk. Just…try not to be so reckless, ok?” Skye looked down, massaging his eyes as his lungs struggled to get their share of air. The exact details were foggy, but he was sure that he didn’t have any control of his arm at the time – it had moved of its own accord.

“Yeah…I’ll be careful. Try to get some rest, we can figure out what to do in the morning.” His eyes began to droop as he let the gentle swaying of the ship rock him to sleep, slipping into disjointed dreams and memories.


Skye’s vision swam in front of him, drifting in and out of focus before settling for a slightly blurry, overly-contrasted scene. He was crouched down on a rough stone floor, opposite from Tucker beside an imposing metal door. Skye gave him a reassuring nod, despite the nervous trembling in his hands – he knew what would happen if they failed…doing what? What was going on? A rough scraping suddenly sounded from the door as it flew open, and a purple-hemmed robe swished past his face. Skye was barely able to react as his body lunged forwards, arms wrapping tightly around the hooded figure’s legs. With a shout, the guard crumpled to the floor as a group of inmates swarmed around them, only to be launched back into the opposite wall with a flick of their finger. Diving behind them, Morden wound a bootlace around the figure’s neck, yanking them to the ground as they gasped for breath, clawing at their throat. Skye held on for dear life as the guard thrashed against his grasp, giving Tucker the chance to grab the figure’s hand, pulling the ring off of their finger and putting it on his own. Tucker grabbed his shackles as they swung open, snapping them to the robed figure’s wrists as Morden relented, jumping back. This was it – the result of all their planning. He couldn’t help but sigh in relief, they just had to-

“C’mon Skye,” Morden muttered, tugging him back as Tucker experimentally waved his arm around. The figure leapt upwards, carried by the shackles, and crashed into the ceiling as Tucker raised his wrist. He moved his hand to the left, and the figure followed, flying towards the wall as his fellow inmates silently gathered behind him. Skye barely managed to stifle a sharp gasp as his friend continued, almost devoid of emotion. Was this okay? He…yeah, it was only fair, right? A line of wet, red blood splattered across the floor near his feet as the figure’s screams died out, dull thuds and crunches the only sounds he could hear. Even after all they had suffered through…this wasn’t humane. He was worried for his friend.

“Tucker,” Skye said loudly as the young man jolted upright – almost as if he had been sleepwalking, just now taking in his surroundings. “Are you ok?” He inhaled deeply, slowly lowering his arm, looking sick. Skye didn’t know what to say as he looked over to Morden, expecting him to share his worry, though all he could see in his friend’s eyes was an unsatiated hunger, a greedy half-grin creeping up his face. He involuntarily took a step back as the entire scene dissolved into black ink, colours swirling away from each other, startled by Morden’s sudden malice…it scared him.


Ferox shot through a murky wave, letting her mind drift as water rushed past her eyes. Multi-colored lightning flashed across the sky in all directions, as howling winds whipped the surface of the turbulent waters below into an angry froth – the dark sea, a place of raging storms and perpetual gloom. Apparently magic pollution levels were off the charts, increasing the further you travelled, though most folks just reckoned it was cursed. How long had it been since she was that scared little girl, fighting to stay afloat on a plank of wood? How old was she, nine? Must have been…heck, almost twenty years since the boss found her, blacked out from exhaustion. Twenty years since she left…well, ran from, really, the towering spire that was just coming into view. Funny, wasn’t it, she remarked with grim humour, trying to ignore the painful throbbing of her stump of an arm – as much as she hated it, home was the first word that came to mind when Ferox thought of the horrible place she had spent the majority of her childhood. The agent finally stumbled onto a jagged, rocky shore, breathing deeply as a dull ache settled into her muscles. An abandoned stuffed bear caught her eye, nestled in a tiny crevice; it had obviously been laying there for years, and its plump, mouldy-brown body looked one good squeeze away from crumbling to dust. She must have forgotten it…him, there during one of the few times she was permitted to go outside. The looming citadel was formally an empty shell, weathered away by tides and time, though it had since been rebuilt and repaired, its walls a rough patchwork of ancient stone and thick rusting metal. It soared unreasonably high, supported by steel cables lining the sides, stretching out into the darkness while the top of the tower precariously swelled into a large pumpkin-like shape, bulging out unnaturally from the stone below.

“This is it,” Ferox sighed to herself, pulling open the half-rotted door to reveal a dimly lit staircase. Eighty five, eighty six, and…eighty seven. She used to count the steps as a child, though they seemed much smaller now. Each stair’s edge had been grinded down to a smooth curve, likely preventing a number of scraped knees over the years. The old hag sure took measures to prevent her lab rats from accidently harming themselves – she took that upon herself. The main structure was composed of two floors: a living space coated in a thick layer of dust, with a ladder in the centre of the floor leading up to a spacious circular laboratory. A large, intricate skylight arced across the ceiling, filling the room with a constant soft pattering of raindrops bouncing against the patterns of crystal and glass. Streaks of lightning occasionally flashed overhead, overpowering Ferox’s dim light and throwing odd shadows across the lab. Off-putting anatomical diagrams and scientific charts that were beyond her understanding rested beside various jars and beakers sitting on shelves lining the walls – some contained fleshy, pulsating masses floating in brine, while others shone with weak, swirling bioluminescent light. Various tables and workstations were scattered throughout the room, and at the centre of it all, a wide mahogany desk strewn with research notes and coffee stains, overlooking two human-sized glass chambers in a nest of pipes and wires. One was open, the other empty. Ferox’s breath caught in her throat as she paused at the overturned chair, a putrid stench wafting over the desk. She was dead. It was over, she didn’t have to think about it anymore. This was just a quick in and out, and yet…Ferox had to check. Behind the desk, sitting limply against the empty chamber was a forty-or-so year old woman, eyes closed, skin deathly pale with stiff blond hair dangling past her shoulders. Her white lab coat was unblemished, save for a deeply stained patch of red blooming from her midsection. The coat had been forcibly ripped apart in a single strike, and she could just make out a rib poking out of the awful, gaping wound. Ferox could feel her heartbeat gradually speeding up, her breath becoming sharper. The woman’s frame was enveloped in a thin, glossy film of black ooze, oily reflections swirling across her skin – Uli’s doing, no doubt. She looked almost identical to when Ferox…when she…she didn’t mean to, it was an accident. A web of thin fractures expanded from where the woman’s head rested, Ferox could still hear the crack of her head against the glass after…she was sorry, she-

“Come now, my sweet,” The professor murmured in a sick parody of motherly love, toying with the end of a large syringe.

This isn’t real,” Ferox croaked, scrunching up her eyes. “You’ve been dead for years.” Ashley’s shoes clicked sharply against the stone floor as she slowly paced throughout the laboratory. Holding her knees tightly, a young girl quivered on the floor of an old cabinet, tucked into the corner. A large claw rested limply beside her, an unfamiliar appendage still alien to the body it was part of.

“Ferox, dear…you put up such a fuss every time, and it’s only a prick.” The girl sobbed quietly, her trembling intensifying. Please, not the needle. She didn’t want to.

“Come now, darling, I’m getting tired of this,” Ashley sighed, voice dropping the slightest amount in pitch. “You’re turning seven soon, much too old to be hiding away every time I need you.” Ferox climbed out of the cabinet, head bowed obediently, still shivering in fear. She couldn’t make her have to ask twice.

“There we are,” the professor beamed. “You should be more like your sister, she listens to her mother.” Ferox looked over her shoulder to see Uli floating gently in one of the glass chambers, a stream of tiny bubbles rising upwards out of her mouth. She was unconscious, bundles of tubes running down her nostrils and mouth. Ashley took Ferox’s arm, leading her to a stained surgical table.

“After all,” she murmured, sliding the syringe into her daughter’s shoulder – “Science waits for no on-”

No,” Ferox growled, running a hand down her face. “Get it together.” She began rifling through the desk’s compartments, sorting through various papers and knickknacks. Damn it, the old hag had to keep it somewhere, it wasn’t like her to be so disorgani-

Bottom right drawer,” a hollow, strained voice wheezed. Ferox froze, eyes widening in panic. She crouched there for a full minute, sweating profusely, not daring to speak. She was dead. She was dead. The agent finally mustered enough courage to look up, only to be met with her mother’s dead stare, vivid green eyes boring into her soul. Ashley still wasn’t breathing. Her…her eyes were open before as well. She must have imagined it, everything was fine.

“S’pose it figures, you always did have a way of getting in my head,” she grumbled, placing a syringe gun and wooden rack of sealed vials on the desk before turning to leaf through a notebook. “Most recent one…sample PCR27. ‘Highly unstable…may cause unwanted mutations,’ huh?” She was already far gone, it’s not like losing some more of whatever humanity she had left would make much of a difference. She loaded the vial into the syringe with a click, unappetizing brownish liquid sloshing against the glass. A tinge of hesitation flashed across Ferox’s face before she readied the instrument, placing her finger on the trigger.

“Cheers,” she muttered to the corpse, sticking the needle into her bloodied shoulder as she inhaled sharply through her disfigured teeth in pain. She could feel her flesh bubbling, bones snapping and stretching to make way for her new limb. To say it was agonising would be an understatement as she collapsed to the floor, unable to scream as a foul-tasting froth bubbled out of her mouth. But that’s what she did, what she’d always done, Ferox reflected, surrendering herself to the sweet bliss of unconsciousness; she endured.

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