"So," he says, glancing up and down the hallway, "this
is Climatrol. Doesn't look so bad." He grins reassuringly
at me. I am, as always, silent. He sighs and turns away.
My fragile consciousness withers a little. I have wronged him.
Why must I resist him always? I cannot submit to the bonding I
feel growing between us, I cannot. With blood such as mine, I
will not risk bringing a child into this world. Cannot. Must not.
This I know.
But what is my blood?
So many memories, of a sudden
None of them clear, all like
a waking dream, hazy and unconnected. For so long my mind had
been so full of holes
I was always incomplete.
But I remember, now.
What am I?
* * * * *
"Hey!" Rolf yelled, drawing his sword. "Just what
do you think you're doing?" His voice echoed hollowly within
the bridge. He advanced, slowly, upon Darum.
Darum was armed as well, with a long, wickedly curved knife. The
girl at his feet was naked, the only sound she made was to sob
in fear and draw shuddering breaths. Her whole body was wrapped
about itself as tightly as she could manage, trying to make herself
as small as possible.
The big man kicked the child harshly before turning to face Rolf.
"Don't interfere!" he bellowed, raising the knife.
Rolf didn't stop his advance. "I'm Agent Rolf of Paseo. I'm
placing you under arrest for banditry, murder, attempted murder,
and assault. The punishment is death, but if you come quietly
and leave the girl be, I'll see that it ends quickly."
"You have nothing but suspicions, Agent." Darum barked
a laugh that boomed within the bridge. "This is a community
service! Take a look." Reaching down, Darum grabbed a fistful
of the girl's purple hair and yanked her to her feet.
Once, while Rolf had been doing reconnaissance in a Land Rover,
he had almost run over a deer. The look in that deer's eyes mirrored
that of the girls - something absolutely paralyzed with fear.
The girl was slim - no, skinny, to be honest - as if she hadn't
eaten in quite some time. She appeared to be about nine.
Rolf continued his advance. Darum backed up, dragging the girl
along with him. "Wait, Agent. This isn't all." Adjusting
his grip on his knife, Darum caught hold of the girl's chin, twisting
her head and pushing back her hair. Rolf gasped. Long, tufted
ears protruded from her head.
"Your authority doesn't extend here, Agent. I'm not guilty
of murder if she's a Biohazard! Last time I checked, you cowards
in Paseo didn't extend your protection to these.."
He yanked hard on the girl's hair, drawing her head backwards,
and placed his knife against her throat. "Any last words,
"Don't," Rolf said warningly. Gripping his blade one-handed,
he quickly dipped one hand into his jacket and pulled out a small,
single shot gun he always carried in a hidden pocket. "My
authority doesn't extend this far out of Paseo, no. So nobody
will call me on it, or even care, if I blow your damned head off
right now, Darum."
Darum hesitated, then snarled and shoved the girl towards Rolf.
She stumbled, cried out, and fell. "You're soft, Agent. Take
this bloody nei and get out of my sight!" He quickly turned
and made for the western end of the bridge. In a moment he would
Rolf raised his gun and set the sights directly on Darum's back.
His finger tightened on the trigger.
Rolf's arm dropped to his side and he approached the girl, ignoring
Darum. For all intents and purposes, she appeared human, but those
ears! "Yeah," he grinned. "I guess you are, at
that. Well, Nei, take this." He undid the clasp of his cloak
and slung it around the girl's frame. It practically engulfed
her. "You got a name?"
Nei. Nei." Her eyes, wild and unfocused, didn't
seem to register Rolf.
"Okay, Nei," Rolf took her gently by the arm and helped
her to her feet. "Come on with me, and we'll get you some
help, okay? I promise, I won't hurt you."
* * * * *
True to his word, he had not.
Why, then, am I forever hurting him?
The halls are cold, silent, dark. Our footsteps ring shrilly upon
the floors. The air stinks of death and fear, even after all this
time. This place is dead. The contrast is startling.
Since what time? I have never been here before.
I shake my head furiously, wishing I was anywhere but here. But
why? I do not smell the adrenaline of hunting creatures, and no
demons with bloodlust in their eyes hurl themselves at me out
Nei, he had called me. Nei. The human who is not a human. So tell
me, Darum, wherever you are, what am I? I am the missing link
between worlds - I am the accident. What is happening to me? So
many memories that I had
are returning as I travel
deeper into this place.
I am becoming whole.
* * * * *
Her smile widened as her fingers tightened inexorably about her
victim's throat. The man, dressed in the white coat of a scientist,
gave a hissing gurgle and helplessly kicked his feet, dangling
above the ground in her grip. His lips were turning blue from
loss of air - she found it comical how easily these creatures
died. Finally, the man gave a last, gurgling sigh and went limp.
She tossed the body aside without much interest - once they were
dead, they no longer interested her. Save as food. Light gleamed
off her naked flesh, smeared with the blood of those she had slain.
She reveled in it, the warmth of the life's fluid spread across
She felt the Other struggle for a moment, and she laughed, flaunting
her Predominance over her, building even higher walls about her
Another man appeared at the end of the hall, hoisting a strange
metal construct. She recognized him - some developing thoughts
in her primal mind matched his name to his young, arrogant face.
She was momentarily pleased with her accomplishment, but it passed,
paling in compare to the joys of the hunt. These men were easy
prey - they died to quickly and she was hungry for more. But they
would suffice, for now. Devorda smelt of fear, the stink was all
But something else
A bolt of energy was spat from the nozzle of the machine he carried,
slamming into her shoulder, searing her flesh. She gave a half
scream, half snarl as she was hurled backwards.
* * * * *
I had not enjoyed it - I shudder when I think of it. It was what
I had become. But yes, I remember now. For that moment, for that
split second of purest agony, she was unable to maintain the Predominance
that so pleased her.
* * * * *
Her blood-smeared flesh gleamed as she rose to a crouch, ignoring
the wound in her shoulder. Devorda desperately tried to fire his
makeshift cannon once more, but the haphazard arrangement of parts
and supplies failed to hold together. He fell back, a man ready
to face death.
But the blast had angered her as much as hurt her. And though
she had a high tolerance for pain, she was in considerable discomfort.
She would enjoy slaying this one, slowly. Then she would gorge
upon his flesh. She sprung.
Mid-leap, she convulsed, helplessly, her war-cry turning into
a shriek of pain. She fell onto her side, shaking madly, and then
there was a flash of light so bright, not even she was able to
witness what happened next.
The scientist forgotten, she rose and cast about herself desperately
for the source of her pain, that she might kill it as well. She
had not expected so much effort inherent in slaying all these
She saw a young girl, no more then four and as naked as she was,
running down the hallway, away from her, on silent feet. There
was something familiar about her
Recognition stirred and she gave a snarl of rage. Without turning,
she caught Devorda a powerful blow across his throat, crushing
his windpipe and snapping his neck. He was dead before he hit
She dropped to all fours and began loping down the hallway after
the child, her keen, almost-human nose detecting the scent of
fear about the child so strong that Devorda's paled in comparison.
Yes, this one would take very long to die, indeed.
* * * * *
But which was I?
Hunter or hunted?
Yes, it comes to me now - I was the child.
What had she intended? I will never submit to her again.
Tears leap to my eyes.
No, I will never be a part of that!
A part of what?
I am so afraid
what is happening to me?
I smell - no, sense, on some strange, long forgotten level - amusement
in the air, and I know. She is here! She lives on still, nurturing
her hatred and her bloodlust, yet
she has changed. Her hunter's
instincts have grown sharper, her cunning and intelligence are
human, not animal, not anymore. And she is waiting for me. I fall
to my knees, my heart pounding fit to break through my chest.
How I want to be free of this awful place!
* * * * *
"It's a girl!" Jonathan Devorda laughed. "Just
like we planned it, eh, fellas?"
Nothing registered fully - she slipped in and out of reality,
dimly hearing, not seeing or smelling. She hovered on the edge
of consciousness, her only anchor Devorda's words.
"We're not out of the woods yet, Josh," another voice,
one she also recognizes, now. Timothy Hyatt, one of the lead scientists.
But she was, if only partially, aware.
* * * * *
I cannot describe my state, physically, save to say that I was
aware. That I had come to be after
how long? I knew, once.
When we were One, I knew.
One with who? Who is she?
But what I was eludes me, no matter how hard I probe this
new memory. All that matters was that I was, for the first time,
I ignore the voice.
* * * * *
But she was not alone in her sense of being - something stirred,
close to her yet infinitely far away. And she knew, in that moment,
there was something with her.
She was not alone.
She reached out to this new entity, childlike, eager and naïve.
The creature grabbed hold of that offering, that unnamable facet
of her existence, extended in innocence.
* * * * *
She was always more cunning then I.
Who is she?
* * * * *
It grasped hold of her, tightly, and caused her pain. Horrible,
unspeakable pain. And she, in innocence, did not know how to respond.
That was her first physical sensation, that awful pain. And with
that facet of her being in it's palm, it gained Predominance.
* * * * *
Yes, it comes clearer now, easier. Why?
We shared a body once, her and I, two entities trapped in a single
form. She was stronger, more vicious, more cunning and primal
then I - I was innocent. Why was my innocence shattered so brutally?
Shared is misleading, I know. She would never share the Predominance.
But she would do the most awful things
and I did nothing
to stop them.
It was my fault.
Someone is shaking me. I snap back into reality, and gaze into
"Nei? Are you all right? Should I get Amy?" His eyes
are full of worry and concern for me. My emotions run rampant
- how I wish I could let them rush wild through my body, succumb
to that one, incredibly need. But no. Not before I know more.
Our eyes are locked. I break that contact, shaking myself free
of the depths of his soul, and rise, not responding. I see the
worried looks of my companions and try to ignore them. Hardest
of all to ignore is him - I can feel his eyes burning into my
back, shocked and saddened.
Why can I not know? Why must I always resist this urging?
Perhaps I truly am as primitive as she is.
And again, I sense that amusement in the air.
* * * * *
There were many exercises and tests in the beginning, even as
a very small child. That phase of our body did not last long,
and while my mind improved, hers stagnated. So much is clearer
to me now
There was only meant to be one.
I was the mistake. I was not meant to be.
Within a month our body appeared to be that of a young woman -
our unique genetic structure matured at a much faster rate then
those of normal humans. This seemed to surprise the scientists.
I do not know why.
There is one test I remember in particular
* * * * *
Watching from the observation booth, Devorda grinned. They had
done exactly what they had planned to do. Hyatt, next to him,
didn't seem to share his pride with Number 23.
Below them was a specially constructed room within the Climatrol,
one in which much of the testing was done. The room was perfectly
square, with eight columns rising from the walls left and right
of the doorway, which was sealed during testing. Laser batteries
were mounted in the ceiling, swiveling pulse cannons capable of
delivering a lethal charge.
They had let 23 loose in there.
The creature slipped easily through the sheet of lasers that the
batteries unleashed at her, the laser's machine enhanced speed
no match for 23's half human, half animal genetic construction.
"Release the drone," Devorda spoke into a small microphone
connected to the control chamber just outside the testing room.
A moment later a panel on the wall slid open and a small attack
drone was released into the room with 23. Sensing new prey, 23
turned and began to engage the robot.
Hyatt rose from his chair and approached the observation window
where Devorda stood. "This is wrong, Devorda."
"Scientific exploration is never wrong, Dr. Hyatt. Never."
Devorda beamed as 23 slipped once more through a hail of lasers
and approached the drone.
"We've created the ultimate killing machine, Jonathan. The
question is - why? What is there we fear so much we must create
a living weapon to destroy it?" Hyatt gestured at the creature,
still stalking the drone. "Now she's primitive, but she gets
more intelligent and powerful with every day that goes by. You
can't contain something that grows exponentially the way 23 does,
Dr. Devorda, you know that as well as I. Even with the Mother
Brain, we can only do so much."
"Just what we need 23 for is confidential, Timothy.
Don't stretch my patience. I am the lead scientist here, and you
are my assistant. Never defy me. Or would you rather we rescinded
your deal with the courts? Do you prefer death penalty over this?"
Hyatt threw up his hands and turned back to the testing room.
23 had fully engaged the drone now, and they were struggling with
each other. 23 seemed to be winning.
Devorda regarded Hyatt for a moment longer before turning back
to 23. It was for the best that Hyatt didn't know what they needed
a killer for - he was a revolutionary, a radical, and would doubtless
want to try to make contact with the massive space shuttle in
orbit about Dezo. But the government had decided that the ship
was somehow dangerous - though what information they had they
did not share with Devorda. So, to combat this menace, they had
tracked down a fugitive, but brilliant biologist who had bombed
a few weapon plants, and who spoke out against Mother Brain now
and again, and waved the death penalty in his face. He and Devorda
had been teamed with a group of lesser scientists to make 23.
The ultimate killing machine.
"Devorda, look out!"
Devorda snapped out of his reverie and back to the testing room
in time to see 23 lifting the drone above her head and hurling
it straight at the observation lounge. It smashed into the window
and shattered it, hurling glass about the room. The drone exploded,
setting fire to the room.
23 sprang, her fingers latching onto the edge of the observation
window. She began to heave herself up, snarling incoherently.
Devorda, huddled in a corner, saw that 23 was on the verge of
escape. He could not allow that to happen. "All cannons,
target Number 23! Activate perimeter defense systems!" His
voice was absorbed into the microphone. A moment later, the scientists
in the control chamber locked onto 23's thermal reading and opened
* * * * *
The body did pass out from pain, and in that moment I might have
broken free. But she felt nothing - the moment the batteries began
to fire, she gave over Predominance. I felt the lasers
searing our flesh, I was the one who screamed in pain,
I was the one who passed out.
Why had I not held on?
Better she died, and with her, the mistake that I am, then live
life half a person. We are both half a person, now, two sides
of one soul, split in two. And it is my fault she lives, as it
was my fault she gained Predominance.
I walk on, hollowly, not caring where I go, only following where
my companions lead. I am almost whole, now
all I need do
is submit to her, become one with her and I will be complete.
It will be welcome to be whole again, to be assimilated into her,
to lose all the guilt and love and hatred I have gained, blessed
I smell something odd. No, not smell. Sense, once more - how could
they be so similar? But it is something much like a scent
is fear so enormous it is ingrained into the very walls. Fear
- and life, incarnate.
This is where I was born.
But this is also where Devorda died. I slow to a crawl as I remember
* * * * *
The room was dark, and she was asleep.
Various sensors were attached to her bare flesh - she had never
worn clothing, had no need for it - that monitored her pulse,
heart rate, brain wave patterns. They had been placed on her after
she had fallen asleep, and when she woke up to find them on her
she would tear them away in hatred. She always did.
In her dreams, she tormented the Other.
How she reveled in the Other's weakness, it's frailty. This pathetic
creature at the edge of her consciousness was all that she was
not. She was strong, the Other was weak.
The laboratory in which she slept was lit only by the flickering,
pale green light of the containment field about our sleeping area.
* * * * *
I remember, they would always keep us within that containment
field, so we could not escape. Though she was still quite primitive,
she understood what caused her pain, and the electric field caused
I heard the scientists talk about us - no, her. I did not exist.
- once, and they called her Number 23.
She had no other name - I was graced with none.
Perhaps, after letting this go on for so long, I do not deserve
Find me, now, that I might submit and be lost in oblivion.
* * * * *
Only Devorda and his most trusted lackeys entered the laboratory
where she slept, and they all knew the strength of her senses,
how, like an animal, she could smell emotion. It was a natural
off-shoot of the animal genetics integrated into her human form.
Timothy Hyatt had never been in this laboratory. Devorda didn't
trust him enough for that.
His was a relatively new scent to 23 - Devorda rarely let Hyatt
get close to her, other then through the observation window when
the testing was going on. His contributions to the Project had
always been to construct the life forms within a simulated, computer
generated environment. His knowledge formed the foundation of
the genetics upon which 23 was based. But she smelt him, and his
fear. And she recognized him.
Like a true huntress, she feigned sleep, and a moment later heard
the hiss of the electrical field deactivating. Her muscles tensed,
but in the darkness, Hyatt didn't see. She could smell him coming
Hyatt slid the small syringe out of his sleeve where he had it
concealed. It was filled to bursting with Metophose, one of the
more potent toxins available on the black market.
Hyatt felt no guilt for moving in those circles - anything to
stop the slow oppression that was the Mother Brain. He certainly
hoped this poison would be enough to weaken 23's immune system
and kill her. Such an abomination of life didn't deserve to live.
He stepped onto the platform which the containment field would
normally have sealed.
Almost immediately, 23 was up and upon him, snarling her rage
at this intrusion. She grabbed Hyatt's throat and lifted him,
kicking helplessly, into the air. She detected sudden movement
as Hyatt's arm, holding a small object that glistened in the pale
darkness, drove towards her. Reaching out for that flailing limb,
she snapped Hyatt's arm like a twig. He screamed and dropped the
syringe. Grabbing him with two hands, she began to throttle the
scientist. He made the most amusing gurgling as he gasped for
air. Within a few moments, his body went limp.
23 shook him for a few moments more before realizing, somewhere
in her primitive mind, that Hyatt was dead. She hurled him away
and his body smashed into a console, overturning it. He sprawled
on the ground, neck and arm twisted at odd angles. Breaking into
a jog, she was out of the room and away. She was freed. Now was
the time for these men to pay for imprisoning her.
* * * * *
Devorda was not the first, or the last scientist to die that day,
as she ran amok through the hallways, killing all who crossed
her path. That was all that saved me when she gave pursuit - the
I freed myself from Climatrol - how, I do not recall, and ran
blindly. Then - a man, and I was terribly cold, and he struck
Rolf. He saved me.
I have a second chance.
The world is spinning all around me, the amusement I sensed before
turning to malice. I fall, gasping in horror at the link I have
allowed her to make with me. What a fool I was! I struggle against
it, a cataclysmic battle, and at last, I feel my sister withdraw.
Yes. We are not the same being any longer. I am Nei.
My eyes are clamped tightly shut, I feel the eyes of my companions
on my body, sprawled on the hallway, dying in the same place I
was born. Slowly, I open my eyes.
And all I can see is his face.
My heart swells, as it always does when I see his face. But the
urgings do not come, not now. I am not an animal. I will deny
instincts that belong purely to Her. I can love - all she knows
is hatred and malice. I am Nei, now, no longer the Other. I will
never submit to the darkness she made my life. I will defy my
heritage. I am not the ultimate killing machine, and nor is she,
for she cannot ever be whole. But when he is near me, then I become
truly one being. And that is something that she will never understand.
He smiles, relieved. "Nei, are you all right?" He asks
once more. "You fell
"No," I reply, sitting. "I'm fine - I slipped.
Thank you, Rolf." I embrace him quickly, impulsively, before
standing and walking down the hallway to where Devorda fell. His
body is gone, of course. But there is a familiar scent in the
air, one recent, and not ours.
I can feel his eyes on me as I walk down the hallway, shocked
and pleased. I can smell emotion building all around him - both
love and passion, and that makes a small portion of the sorrow
return in full. Perhaps he and I are simply not meant to be. But
I am pleased at this, and that outweighs the sorrow. No, my sister
and I are not the same being any more.
My sister hunts. From the moment we entered this place, she has
hunted us, but I was to busy preparing to die to notice. Perhaps
I will die - but I will not die without fighting against her!
I am not the mistake - she was. Anything so awful, no matter if
she was intended to be, is a mistake against nature, something
which should not exist.
I am Nei.
I am not the missing link - not anymore. I am the best of the
two worlds, and I join will join them, bridge the gap between.
I am not the missing link, but the bridge.
I am Nei.
I drop to all fours the way my sister does so often when she hunts
- how I know this, I do not know, and run along behind her scent,
ignoring the stunned looks from my companions. I know they will
follow - if not for me, then for Rolf. He would not dare lose
me to the maze of passages and corridors in this place. True enough,
they follow me, not understanding, but hoping.
Hoping that I am not insane.
The Hunter becomes the Hunted, sister mine, and now I am hunting
* * * * *
She is toying with us, but though we are separate, we are alike.
We shared each other's mind, and we know the other too well to
be easily diverted. She favors large rooms, where she will spread
her scent across it, hoping to lose us. She cannot lose us, anymore
then I can lose her.
There are no more memories, now - all have come and I truly am
whole once more. I wonder, so many times as I pursue and she pursues
us, whether she knows that we hunt her? I wonder, am I strong
enough to face her?
Yes. I am Nei.
Nei has two meanings, I learned early in my life. For me, that
word was a damnation, a sentence, a double edged sword.
'The human who is not a human.' I repeat it to myself silently
as I race through the hallways, slowing down every so often to
let the others catch up.
The second meaning had struck me as ironic - even then, I was
bitter, lost in my own imagined weakness.
And the second, older meaning
Rolf had wanted me to take
that as my name, but though I might resent the first definition,
I did not choose the second. I felt unworthy. And perhaps, because
of that, I was. I am not unworthy now.
I have always been strong, though I did not know it. I was, perhaps,
the only one who failed to see it. I created myself, I willed
myself to live, but over time I forgot why.
To fight my heritage. And I will fight you, sister. I will fight
you to the death.
I am Nei, and Nei means Power. I am coming for you now.
* * * * *
Once, this place was full of life - scientists and researchers
going about their business. She was only one project of a hundred,
a thousand. How many men had made their homes here? Lived for
the sake of science, for the betterment of mankind.
Only one experiment was truly, intrinsically wrong - and it was
enough to kill every person in the facility save me. She killed
them all. How strong is she?
No! I will not doubt my abilities. I am strong. We are all strong.
They did not deserve to die, sister. What have you destroyed that
might have been wonderful? What experiment might have changed
the world, and for the better? Who are you to decide who lives
and who dies? Who am I? But this has been decided, sister. You
forced me to those end with your tortures and your hatred. I am
not to blame for your death, and you will die. You have killed
yourself, sister, as surely as you killed Devorda or Hyatt.
I am coming.
* * * * *
At last, she seems to have given up the chase, her trail leading
us away from places we had been, ground we had covered, and deeper
into the bowels of Climatrol. So many things make sense now that
did not before
She is responsible for the outbreak of Biohazards
across Mota. Her revenge against the humanity that would have
used her. She must be much more intelligent now, to learn to use
the machines that generate Biohazards. Almost as intelligent as
Perhaps, sister, I should not hate you. The way you were created
cannot be blamed on you
You were made that way, and darkness
is your nature. But I am only human - how strange, to think of
myself that way - and not infallible.
* * * * *
She was waiting for us in a cul-de-sac at the very top of the
Climatrol, leaning casually against a conduit that protrudes from
the wall. I sense immediately that she has changed. As I have
grown, she has grown and she is more intelligent and cunning now
then ever before. But beneath that facade, she is the killer I
know so well
It is her nature, this I admit to myself, as I have done before,
but she still must die, or others will be killed. Not for her
faults, but for the faults of others.
She has found clothing that matches - mocks - my own, though how
she knew what I wore or where she found cloth to make them eludes
me. Her hair is held in the exact same style as my own, her posture
We are mirror images of each other.
"What?" he cries. "You look just like Nei!"
"I am called," her gaze flickers to me for a brief second,
and a cynical smile splits her face in two. "Neifirst."
My fists clench at my sides. How dare, after all this time, she
take the one thing in my life that belongs only to me and then
make it her own. Anger wells within me. And the rest is a blur.
She has framed a challenge, and though she looks at Rolf, the
speaks to me. I must fight her - though it will kill me. Nei will
be no more. And I know, now, I cannot defeat her.
My eyes flicker to Rolf and my heart breaks with love. I understand,
suddenly. There is a long road before him, and he needs strength
which he lacks. Perhaps my strength will aid him along his way.
After all, does my name not mean 'Power'?
And he and I will meet again - I know this surely, and for once,
though I do not know the source of this thought, I do not doubt
I nod, once, slowly, facing my sister, Number 23. She has no other
name, is deserving of no other name.
I am Nei, sister, and I have come for you.
* * * * *
Rolf reached out slowly and closed the staring eyes. Neifirst
stood to one side, ignoring them, licking her claws, smeared with
Nei's blood. She herself seemed to be able to disregard the wounds
Nei inflicted upon her in the moment before her death.
Reaching out, he smoothed Nei's hair, wiped the blood gently from
her face. She seemed so serene in death - a serenity she had never
gained in life.
Or had she?
He had known so little of her, but the love he had felt for this
woman was so profound the rest of his life paled beside it. In
the months they had been together, they had come to fulfill each
other simply by their own presence. They had made each other whole.
His finger's rested for a moment on Nei's ears, and he gave them
a loving caress. How beautiful they were! How soft and delicate
most beautiful woman ever born. His soul emptied, and a new resolve,
born of her death, swelled within him. He lay her head gently
upon the ground and picked up his sword from where it lay beside
him. He rose, and sensed more then saw Rudo and Amy take up positions
next to him. Neifirst fell back a step, hesitant for a moment,
then snarled and sprung towards them.
They leapt to meet her.
And that is how it began.