--------------- - Chapter 1/5 - ---------------
The car sped across the moors. I was driving, because I was the only one in the car with a valid driving licence. Sitting next to me in the passenger seat was Luke, my best friend since school. In the back was my younger sister, Rebecca, and Brett, her boyfriend. Rebecca and Brett were french-kissing each other noisily. Luke and I were silent, lost in our own thoughts.
We were on our way home after a night out at a gig in town. Crappy local punk band. Nobody was very impressed, but at least some of us had drunk enough not to really notice. I was still sober as a judge, but the other three had all been drinking, which probably accounted for Brett being hornier than usual, making moves on my sister in his own dumb way. I really could never see what Rebecca saw in him. Yes, she was my sister, and it was my prerogative to be protective around her, but there was something about Brett that was just plain offensive. They were only 16, after all. He sat in the middle of the rear seat, his arm around Rebecca, stroking her thigh with his other hand. He only ever seemed to wear the same black leather jacket, ripped jeans and grubby t-shirt. Maybe I was just jealous of his good looks. Sometimes I wanted something really awful to happen to him. For Becky's own good.
There hadn't been any other cars on the country road for at least half and hour when I saw a dim, greenish light up ahead. I dipped my main-beam headlights, presuming that it was some continental car speeding in the opposite direction, back towards town. Then I realised that the light wasn't moving at all.
"Uh. Looks like someone's broken down." I thought out loud.
"Where?" asked Luke, leaning forward in his seat.
"See the lights over there, around the next bend?" I elaborated. Brett disengaged from my sister with a wet pop and squinted at the road ahead.
"Wassat, man?" he grunted. I didn't reply. Becky turned and stared out of the window at the dark moorland flashing past. I eased of the accelerator slightly as we came into the bend. The light up ahead was starting to look strange. It radiated along the road and through the gaps in the hedges, hitting banks of fog and diffusing through the night sky. Then there was the colour, that unearthly green. It reminded me of hospitals. As we rounded the corner at last, I wondered if there was a roadblock.
And all of a sudden, the light was gone. It was extinguished totally in the split second that whatever was causing it was about to come into view, as if we had stumbled upon something that had to be kept secret from human eyes. I remembered old folk stories of Will-o'-the-wisps, faerie phosphorescent lights that play upon moors and boglands, luring unwary travellers to a watery doom. The road ahead was dark and wet. I flipped my headlights back on to full beam.
"...the fuck?" whispered Luke, next to me. I looked over at him for a second, then back to the road. "Drive slow, man." he urged. I dropped down into second and we trundled forward. We spent the best part of a minute in silence, our four slack-jawed faces gazing at the empty road ahead. No sign of a breakdown. They must've fixed the car and driven off, I thought. I looked at the clock on the dashboard. 11.48pm. We could be home before midnight with no more interruptions. It was just as I thought about the time that the car stalled. There was a judder, and we reached a halt. I figured we'd stopped slightly beyond where the eerie light had been.
"Wanker." said Luke, breaking the silence, and the girls managed a laugh. I put the handbrake on and took it out of gear.
"Oh, that's fucking rich, coming from Mr-I-Failed-My-Driving-Test-Six-Times over there." I hissed, good-humouredly.
"Heh, shut up, okay?" laughed Luke, punching my arm. I turned the ignition. The car spluttered, but the engine didn't start. I tried again. Even less this time. I checked the gearstick and tried again. Nothing.
"Fuck." I whispered. I turned the ignition off completely and took out the key. The headlights went out, as did the lights on the dashboard. I fumbled the key back into the lock and turned it. The lights stayed dead and there was silence from the car. I tried a few more times but a feeling of hopelessness was washing over me and I gave up straight away. No chance. We were bathed in darkness. The car felt cold.
"What's happened?" asked Rebecca, speaking for the first time since we left town. No-one replied. I think I remember hearing a deep roaring sound from above the car.
A blinding white light filled the car. Somebody screamed, and I passed out.
--------------- - Chapter 2/5 - ---------------
I awoke in a small, white-walled cell.
At first it was hard to open my eyes. It was impossible to work out how much time had passed. Rebecca was next to me, her head on my shoulder. Luke was lying on the floor on the other side of her, and Brett was over in the opposite corner. Everybody was still wearing the clothes they had been in the car, and nobody seemed hurt at all. I was the only one awake.
I looked around cautiously, trying not to wake Rebecca. The walls of the room glowed very brightly, and there was no discernible door or exit. I thought of the sealed, padded cells they used to have in asylums. I listened as hard as I could for any clue as to where we were being held, but there was total silence. There was no feeling of movement or vibration from the wall behind me. The only thing my ears could tell me was that the air pressure felt different. It felt like we were somewhere high up in the sky. Panic hit me as I remembered the bright light on the road. The stories of alien spaceships swooping down on country lanes late at night and capturing unwary motorists. Stories that with my scientific training at school and university I'd always written off as fantasy and paranoia.
I wracked my brain for a rational explanation for what had happened. Perhaps we had crashed into a tree. Maybe this was a new kind of ambulance. A space-ambulance? Maybe this is a mass hallucination. Freak atmospheric conditions? Ball lightning, perhaps? There had to be a straightforward explanation. I wasn't ready to start believing in flying saucers just like that. I wanted proof. Besides, why would aliens kidnap us?
"Hello?" I yelled, in anger. "Where are we? What happened?" Luke stirred in his sleep. I gently lifted Becky's head off my shoulder and let her slide to the floor, then stood up and dusted myself down. My shirt looked as if it had been ripped along the length of both sleeves, and some of the buttons were missing. I took it off. As I was doing that, I heard a slight click and a gargly-sounding voice spoke, the words seeming to come from all around me.
"Your name is Adam?" it asked, quietly and evenly.
"Yeah." I cautiously answered.
"You are nineteen Years of age?" the voice said.
"Yeah." I repeated. There was a pause.
I thought about yelling my head off, asking how they knew who I was, and where they were keeping us, and who the hell 'they' were anyway, but there was something about that deep reptilian voice that sounded reassuring. I waited, obediently, and after only a few seconds part of the smooth white wall of the cell opposite me swung open, revealing an adjoining corridor that was similarly white and gleaming. All very sci-fi, I thought. I waited for a few seconds more, half-expecting more questions from the disembodied voice from the walls, but after satisfying myself that I was expected to make the next move, I walked through the door and out into the corridor. It ended just to my right, but to my left it stretched on for quite a long way, ending in a large metal-framed double-door of some description. I looked back into the cell, at my unconscious friends and sister. And at Brett as well. The door swung shut on its own and sealed itself, fitting so perfectly into its frame that only a tiny crack around the edges and a large, alien-looking sigil in the centre gave indication that there was anything important behind it.
I began walking down the corridor, after a moment to get my bearings. There wasn't really anything else to do. The wall on my left had similar sigils to the one that was on our cell door spaced evenly along its length, giving the impression of a row of twenty or so cells. For all its alien design and construction, the whole area had the foreboding air of a vast, silent prison block. I paused at the end of the corridor in front of the large metal doorframe, looking back along the length of the corridor. Right on cue, the doors in front of me swung open with a whoosh as I turned to face them again. Beyond was darkness. I peered into the gloom.
"Step forward, Adam." came the gargly voice again. I edged forwards nervously through the doorframe. Just as I expected, the doors behind me slammed shut silently and I was plunged into pitch blackness. I took a few more tentative steps forward. "Carry on. Come closer." said the voice, which seemed to be coming from directly in front of me. I realised that I was surely about to come face to face with whatever terrible person or thing it was that was keeping us prisoner. I continued to edge closer to the source of the voice.
Suddenly a light came on above my head. I was bathed in the same off-green glow that I had seen drifting over the hedges on that country road near my home. I stopped walking and looked down at myself. I was still wearing the same sweaty t-shirt I had worn at the gig last night... or however long ago it was, as well as baggy jeans and a pair of grubby Airwalks. Only the colours were indistinct, because everything looked the same murky green colour. "Don't be scared." said the voice. By now I was sure that its owner was only a few feet in front of me. I heard footsteps pad ever closer. Finally it came into view before me. It was a vaguely humanoid creature, a little over four feet tall and reptilian in appearance. It had small, yellow eyes and a crocodile-ish mandible, inset with small, blunt teeth. Its skin was green and scaly, but seemed translucent and thin. It was dressed in a simple cloak made of a white material and some kind of ornamental belt. Unable to repress my instincts, I recoiled slightly. The light above my head shifted to accommodate my new position.
"I am the elected representative of the Kailyard race. We come from a planet not unlike Earth, in a solar system adjacent to your own." the lizard-man spoke, and I realised that he was going to great lengths to accommodate the English language and speech-patterns. As he spoke, his slimy tongue flicked around the sides of his maw.
"Wh... where...?" I panted, my brow furrowing.
"You and your friends are now unregistered crew onboard a Kailyard military and scientific vessel. A genuine flying saucer." said the Kailyard Elder. He was being sarcastic, I decided. I thought about moving, about running away, but where would I go? Outside the glowing circle in which me and the Elder were standing was utter darkness, under the cover of which any kind of abomination might be lurking. I was scared - scared of what might be waiting for me in the shadows, and scared of waiting and listening to this walking, talking reptile, with his talk of solar systems and spaceships.
"We took you from your vehicle because you are our raw material. The only reason I do you the honour of speaking with you at all is that I take great pleasure in causing you humans as much psychological torment as possible." spat the Elder.
"Why? Why?" I murmured.
"Our ships have been interfering with your planet for over fifty Years. Watching, waiting. Over time we have taken many of your people for our experiments." said the Elder. "Some of them were returned. Not everyone is suitable."
"Suitable for what? Why have you brought us here?" I said, suddenly finding the courage and the words to match it.
"The time has come for the Kailyard race to wreak its revenge on all of Humanity. And you, Adam, and your friends, will be our weapon. With your help all of that miserable planet you call home will be enslaved." the Elder hissed, leaning close to my face. I could smell meat on his breath.
"What are you... what are you going to do?" I asked, my voice quavering slightly.
"For a long time we strove for a way to turn Human beings against their own kind. The years of hatred have given my people something more than bloodlust: We needed to break the Human soul, to make you a victim of your own love of technology. And most of all, to establish a new world order, ready for a Kailyard invasion."
"Our experiments have been fruitful. We discovered many years ago that the Human nervous system responds well to cybernetic augmentation. Your rather simple brains are also easily brainwashed and computerized. You and your friends are all young Humans. Young, healthy, fit Humans. You will all make excellent cyborgs."
It took seconds for the horrible implications of the Elder's prophesy to sink in. I thought about my sister for a second and swallowed hard.
"I, the most important of my race, have explained this to many of our victims in exactly the same way as I explain to you now. I do so because I enjoy seeing you and your kind looking scared, Adam. I will enjoy even more seeing you once you are a cyborg, unable to feel fear. Unable to do anything other than obey. I will personally oversee your cybernizations. I would hope that you realise how much of an honour that is. But of course you don't, because you're a stupid, stupid Earthling. Even as I speak, I imagine you're probably wondering what your race has done to deserve such a terrible fate."
"I see that you're finding it hard to talk. Well, I'll tell you, anyway. Once, my home planet was a beautiful paradise. All Kailyardians led peaceful, happy lives. That was our golden age. It was a time of plenty. And then you filthy Humans crawled out of the primordial soup on your nasty little Earth-planet just a few billion miles away. At first we didn't notice you much. You seemed harmless, little more than toys for baby Kailyardians to play with. We even considered the possibility, for a time, of entering into a treaty with you, once you'd reached a sufficient level of moral development. And then you went and invented the radio."
"There were those amongst our people who said you weren't to blame. That you weren't to know that your radio signals were audible half-way across the galaxy; that there was no way you could have known about the unfortunate Kailyard people, those cursed creatures who the Creator saw fit to make so that their brains picked up Earth radio signals involuntarily. They said that before long you'd see the error of your ways, that soon your radio transmitters would shut up. And for a long time our people suffered. Nobody on our home planet could sleep or think properly, because nobody could shut out the inane chattering voices and stupid songs you Humans pollute the Sacred Airwaves with. Many of us went insane. And then you invented the television, and things went from bad to worse."
"I don't think I need to go on. I'm sending you back to your cell now. Think about what I've told you. Tell your friends. Help them to understand. I think you'll probably agree there's a kind of poetic justice about the whole operation."
I hadn't moved or made a sound. I was... numb. I hadn't been able to listen to many of the things that the Elder said. My mind was gripped by an unearthly terror of a kind I had never before experienced. I don't really remember how I got back to the little white cell where my friends were waiting. I just remember collapsing in the corner and falling asleep.
--------------- - Chapter 3/5 - ---------------
I was prodded awake by Luke to find I was still in the tiny white cell. I rubbed my eyes. Brett and Becky were sitting against what I knew to be the door, in each other's arms.
"Adam? You okay?" asked Luke.
"Yeah, uh, yeah. Everyone else alright?" I said. Brett nodded and ran his hand through Becky's hair. She looked very upset. I wondered for a second if I should tell them what the Kailyard Elder had told me. Did they really need to know? Then I looked at Luke, my best and oldest friend, and decided that I owed him that much.
"I've spoken to them. The people who brought us here."
"You have?! Who are they?!" said Luke, his eyes popping.
"They... uh, they... We're on a spaceship. They're...
It took me much longer to explain to Luke, Rebecca and Brett than it had taken the Kailyard Elder to explain to me. There were many interruptions, many questions, and many gasps of disbelief. Ultimately they only had my word to go on as far as the Kailyard's story went, but I kept on trying to appeal to their reason. How else could they explain the encounter on the road, or the small white-walled cell in which we were being kept.
The hardest part came when Rebecca asked what the Kailyard were going to do with us. I shuddered as I explained their plans to enslave humanity, and what part we were going to play. I broke out into a sweat when Rebecca, in her most innocent voice, asked me what a cyborg was. I closed my eyes and desperately wished I could just fly away. I heard Luke trying to explain to her, but I heard the crack in his voice as he spoke. Good old Luke. At least he believed me, for some reason.
"Well, we've gotta bust our fuckin' way out of here, then!" decided Brett suddenly, and leapt to his feet. He started banging on the walls of the cell with his fist, but the strange glowing material from which they were constructed simply absorbed the sound. Had there been any helpful soul waiting in the corridor outside with the intentions of aiding our escape, they would surely have not heard the racket we were making through those thick walls. Brett shrugged off his leather jacket and tossed it into the corner. He began trying to prise open the door with his fingertips. Luke and I stood on the other side of the room watching him pessimistically, while my sister looked up at her lover with something approaching hope. Brett struggled with the door for several minutes. I saw sweat running down his arms and face, and blood between his fingers, before he finally gave up and sat down with a thud, almost as quickly as he had stood up. He avoided my gaze deliberately.
"This is a prison more secure than anything we have on Earth." I told the others. "We're going to have to think our way out if we ever want to see home again. Now, anybody got any bright ideas?"
"What did they say they were going to do to us again, Ads?" asked my sister, looking at me imploringly. Brett put his arm around her and whispered 'ssshhh'. I realised he cared for her a lot. I'd been too hard on him.
"Adam," said Luke, "Did they say anything about how long it would be before they came for us?" Suddenly the evil, raspy voice of the Kailyard Elder boomed out through the walls and the ceiling:
"Not long, Human. Not long at all!" it cackled, and the room began to fill with a white, odourless gas from tiny jets in the ceiling.
"Oh, shitshitshit, don't breathe!" I yelled, and the four of us watched as the gas slowly descended to head height and then lower. I looked desperately at Luke and then at Brett. We all had our mouths closed tightly. I knew it was only a matter of time before we succumbed.
"Sleep while you may, Humans!" said the voice of the Elder, and as I began to feel drowsy his maniacal laughter filled the cell. It was no good - I couldn't hold my breath any longer. I let out a tiny gasp and sucked in a little air, air that I thought was still pure. It was enough. Stars filled my vision and I blacked out in a matter of seconds. ---
I awoke in a new cell somewhere else on the ship. I could faintly hear the distant rumble of engines. This new cell was about the same size, but the wall which had previously hidden a door was replaced with a large set of reinforced metal bars, securely bolted into some kind of hydraulic door mechanism. Luke was beside me, sprawled over the floor, and Brett was near the bars in a foetal ball. Rebecca was... SHIT, where was Becky?!
I crawled, still in something of a chemically-induced daze, over to the bars and looked through. The cell appeared to be set into the wall of a larger room. This main room was a good six or seven times larger than the cell itself, and was equipped with banks of hi-tech machinery. The walls were covered in display screens and information readouts, and from the ceiling dangled all manner of delicate and scary-looking probes and devices. It looked to all intents and purposes like an alien laboratory ought to. In the middle of the room was a near-vertical metal bench about seven feet long. It had thick metal clasps at positions corresponding to the human neck, waist, wrists and ankles.
I stood up. There were two Kailyard guards on either side of the cell door, one slightly taller than the other, dressed in some kind of military uniform and carrying deadly-looking rifles. They resembled the Elder in most respects, but they didn't look quite as clever. "Luke! Brett!" I hissed, kicking the other two boys awake. They groaned and began to come to. Suddenly the Elder stepped out from a door on the far side of the room which appeared to be the only exit. He was leading a naked girl by a metal band around her neck. My blood turned to ice as I realised it was Rebecca. The Elder reached the awful apparatus in the middle of the laboratory without looking at us in the cell. Rebecca appeared to be very woozy, and not really aware of what was happening. The Elder pushed her soft, nubile young body against the metal table and clicked the restraints shut over her legs, arms and waist without much resistance on her behalf.
"Becky!" called Brett as he realised what was going on. Luke gripped the bars with his fists and started shaking them. They barely moved at all. Rebecca started to wake up slightly, and squinted at our cell. She must've realised that something was wrong when she found she couldn't move her neck or head. She started to whimper.
The Elder approached our cell slightly. "Now, Humans. Witness the end of your puny race as you know it!"
Rebecca stood naked against the hard metal table, her wrists and ankles tightly bound in place. Her eyes darted from side to side, looking terrifiedly at the banks of machinery either side of her and above her.
"Brett? Brett, oh God, Brett, help me please, please, please." she wept, trying to turn her head to the side and make eye contact with her boyfriend. Brett wrung his hands, looking nervously between Rebecca's bound form and the guards by the cell door. The Elder grinned a wicked smile.
"Prepare the apparatus!" he said in a loud voice, and with a whirr the machinery around Rebecca leapt into life. Rebecca let out a cry as the table against which she was strapped began to tilt backwards like a dentist's chair. At the same time, hydraulic arms and supports began to unfold and extend, surrounding the now partially-tilted cybernization table. I could see Rebecca looking around at the battery of metallic instruments and devices poised around the perimeter of her body, waiting for the instruction to begin their work. I heard her whimper.
"Prepare the subject!" came the command from the Elder and some of the instruments around Rebecca's head and between her legs began to buzz. I turned to look at Brett. He was gripping the bars of our cell and seething. For a few seconds Becky's head and groin were obscured, and then the instruments stopped buzzing and retracted. They had shaved her head and genitals completely.
The Elder took a few steps forward. He looked at us, and without any emotion, said the fateful words: "Begin cybernization." Then he grinned a wicked grin and turned to watch the process.
A metal headset was lowered into place around her head, connected by thick cables to the computers around her. She closed her eyes as it began its work. Meanwhile her arms and legs were coated in a mesh of wires and implanted with micro-circuitry. Arrays of cybernetic components began to click into place on her torso. Her young, round, heaving breasts started to look shiny and hard as they too were wrapped tightly in cybernetics.
"Help... me..." she stammered, her eyes flickering open as she tried to resist the brain control.
"REBECCA!" yelled Brett, banging his fists against the metal bars of the cell. Her body was now almost fully encapsulated in cybernetics.
"What... is happening... to me?" she asked. "Who... am I?"
"You are being changed into a cyborg." came the Kailyard reply. "You are being brainwashed. Do not try to resist."
"No... no... I am human. Please, stop..." said Rebecca, the skin of her face accumulating microchips and wires.
"That's right, Becky, fight it!" cried Brett, "FIGHT IT!"
"Amplify the mind-controller." ordered the Kailyard Elder, and the headset that enclosed most of Rebecca's head began to buzz louder with the electricity coursing through it.
"Nooo...." she moaned, softly, screwing up her eyes.
"You will obey. You will be enslaved." insisted the Elder.
"B-B-Brett... I can't... can't resist it... I can feel m-my m-mind going..." Her body below her neck was being encased in rigid, segmented metal armour. Her breasts were now smooth, hard, gleaming domes, adorned with tight steel nipples. "I am changing... I can feel it..."
"Becky, NO!" Brett was kicking the wall in anger, his knuckles bleeding from hitting the bars.
"I can feel it... I am becoming... a cyborg..." said Rebecca, and when she said the fateful word her voice suddenly, for an instant, sounded harsh and robotic.
"Yesss...." hissed the Elder. "You will obey." There was a pause, and it seemed for a second as if everything might be okay. Nobody spoke. And then, without warning, Rebecca opened her eyes again. Her irises glowed red. In a robotic voice, she said:
"I will obey. I am a cyborg."
"NO!" screamed Brett.
"Cyborg Unit X-1 on-line. System integrity attained. Awaiting programming." She spoke in a flat, clipped monotone that was still recognisably my sister but sounded synthesised and electronic.
"Download core program." said the Elder, and the systems around her began to feed data and instructions directly into Rebecca's computerized brain. Her laser-red eyes glowed brighter. The conversion devices and instruments began to withdraw and fold themselves away, and various lengths of cables and tubing were detached from her. For the first time we could see her new body in all its glory. She was shiny and hard, her armour housing a perfect robotic figure. Brett was still panting in rage, but he had started to gaze at Cyborg Unit X-1 with a kind of strange fascination.
"Programming complete." said the Cyborg-Rebecca.
"Excellent. Release the subject." ordered the Elder, and the metal clasps that had held Rebecca in position unfasted as the table itself tilted back towards the vertical. The large, unwieldy headset with a series of clicks began to detach itself from her head. With a hiss, the hydraulic arm which supported it retracted, lifting the headset clear of her body. It was clear that it had made many adjustments to Rebecca's brain from the shiny, multi-faceted metal helmet it left in place covering most of the top of her head. The helmet had headphone-type attachment covering both of her ears, and from the left-hand side a small aerial extended a couple of inches into the air. She stepped forward, away from the equipment which had rebuilt her and stood to attention near the Kailyard Elder.
The tiny part of her that was still recognisably human, her face, looked strangely beautiful. Her expression was as cold as the metal armour that covered her body, but her complexion was smooth and very pale. Her lips had turned a light blue colour that contrasted sharply with the red glow from her irises as they transmitted visual data to her cybernetic brain. A few wires and circuits encroached from under the helmet around the sides of her cheeks and forehead.
The Kailyard turned to stand alongside Rebecca, facing us in the cell. "Do you see now how we intend to take over your planet?" he cried triumphantly. "Unit X-1 here is a virtually indestructible soldier, perfect in almost every way, and in addition it is emotionless and totally obedient to our cause."
"Rebecca! REBECCA!" shouted Brett desperately, reaching out between the bars. Luke walked up behind him and put his hand on Brett's shoulder.
"Leave it, man. She can't hear you. There's nothing you can do."
"Your friend is right, Human." said the Elder. "Resistance is hopeless."
"No... it can't be. It can't be happening. No... Rebecca! Listen to me, Rebecca, listen to me! They're controlling you!"
The Elder gave out an evil laugh. "You ignorant Human. You talk as if we have merely hypnotised her. Her brain is riddled with our control circuitry. She no longer even recognises you!"
"I won't believe it! It's not true..." insisted Brett, screwing up his eyes and clenching his fists.
"Open the cell door and release that Human." barked the Elder to the guards on either side of the cell. They silently complied, the taller of the two tapping an access code into the security panel next to the cell door. There was an ominous rumble as hydraulic pistons released their hold on the door and the bars were opened little more than a foot. The smaller Kailyard guard grabbed Brett, who was by this time sobbing, by the scruff of the neck and thrust him in front of the Kailyard Elder and the cyborg. The bars slid effortlessly back into place and with another rumble the cell was once again secure. I thought for a second about what that window had opportunity might have presented if I had had my wits about me, but for the time being I was more concerned about Brett. He was crouched on the floor. "Stand." said the Elder, and Brett complied. "Good. I am glad to see that you are learning the value of obedience."
"Becky, no, no, becky... no...." he moaned, looking with longing eyes at the cyborg that had once been his girlfriend and my sister, and yet afraid to touch her. The Elder sniffed derisively.
"Unit X-1, identify the human who stands before you."
"Subject is homo sapiens sapiens," came X-1's monotone, emotionless analysis. "16 years of age. I.Q. average. Subject is known as 'Brett'"
"Subject is highly suggestible and physically mature. Recommendation is that subject is recruited into the elite cyborg squadron."
I heard Luke a few feet away from me in the cell, whisper "Oh my God, no..." I gulped. Run, Brett, run, I thought to myself. His spirit seemed crushed. Just like they wanted. Please God, Brett, run!
"Your recommendation is approved." said the Kailyard Elder. "Prepare the subject." Rebecca stepped forward mechanically so that she was only a foot away from her ex-lover. Brett was staring straight into her glowing eyes with a blank expression. With a hiss and a whirr, Rebecca raised her arms either side of Brett's torso. She angled her fingertips inwards, and I could just make out the tiny claw-like blades that they sported. In a single, smooth action she slashed the fabric of his t-shirt so that it split at the sides and fell to the floor in two pieces. She reached around to his belly and with her finger-blades severed his belt and the waistline of his jeans. They fell to the floor in a crumpled heap. She slashed away his boxer shorts in much the same way as she had removed his t-shirt, without ever risking damaging his body. Brett was now almost naked, his muscular young body only inches away from Rebecca's robotic, armoured form. As he voluntarily stepped out of his boots, her finger-blades retracted and she took him by the hand in an eerily human way, leading him towards the cybernization table.
Luke leapt towards the bars and his anger burst out: "Brett! Run! While you can, in the name of God, RUN!" Brett turned around to face the cell, and in his eyes I could see that we had already lost him. Consumed by his love for my sister, he had resigned himself to join her in the only way he knew how. I remember thinking the gesture was pointless, but kind of romantic. The boy leant back against the table and moved his arms and legs into position so that X-1 (or Rebecca, as he still saw her) could fasten the clasps that would hold him in place. He was staring at her beautiful face with a wistful, almost adoring expression. He must have known that he was willing, deep down, to sacrifice everything, even his humanity, for his girlfriend.
We watched in terror from the cell as the last clasp was secured around his neck and the table began to tilt backwards. The razor attachment extended and shaved his head and genitals. I might have imagined it, but I was sure that a single tear ran down his cheek as he gazed at Rebecca.
This time the words were spoken not by the Kailyard Elder but by Rebecca, his first victim. In a matter of seconds the mind-control headset was locked into place around Brett's cranium, shaping his brainwaves, wiping the memories he had of 16 years as a human being and draining him of his emotions. By the time Brett realised what was happening, by the time he realised what he was going to become, by the time the vacant expression on his face became one of pure terror, it was too late. It was far too late.
His last words were gasped out between teeth-clenched, furrow-browed attempts to resist the cybernization process, but every second more circuitry was being crammed into his brain. His naked young body was already beginning to look like X-1's. He was cocooned in wiring and microcircuitry. He screwed up his eyes and opened his mouth, letting out a silent scream. Armor clanged into place all over his powerful body. It was only a matter of...
"Cyborg Unit X-2 on-line. System integrity attained. Awaiting programming." His eyes were open now, red and glowing like Rebecca's. His voice had changed too. Hard. Robotic. Cold. I winced and looked away.
"Download core program." intoned X-1. I looked at Luke, gritting his teeth and leaning against the bars next to me, his eyes registering horror and anger. I bit my lip. We couldn't let it end like this, with no struggle. There had to be a way. Better to die on our feet than die... laying on that table. I looked over at Luke for inspiration, but the look he returned was full of despair.
"Programming complete." said Brett. The table released him, and he stepped forward jerkily to meet his cyborg sister. His face was blank and emotionless like hers, but his big robotic bulk contrasted sharply with her smooth curves and sensual power. Both Units, X-1 and X-2, turned to face their master, the Kailyard Elder, and stood to attention like the military cyborgs they were.
"I think we'll finish this off in one go." said the Kailyard Elder. "I know what I said earlier, but to be honest, when you've cybernized one human, you've cybernized 'em all. Fortunately the lab adjacent to this one is equipped for mass cybernizations. We can finish you both off in double time." he hissed with relish. "Guards, take them through to the Primary Ward."
"Fuck you, you alien scum." said Luke, who was foaming at the mouth. The Elder took a few steps closer.
"Your tiny mind still doesn't understand what we're doing here, does it? You, you vicious little human, you are the scum. Your filthy kind has ruined the lives of millions of Kailyard. Mothers, babies, all climbing the walls of our lunatic asylums thanks to your irresponsibilty. At least thanks to us you will have a second chance. You will be reborn."
"You can't take on mankind. You'll never win." breathed Luke. The Elder did not reply, only rocked back on his heels and raised his arm. He indicated the motionless cyborgs behind him, as if to say 'won't we?'. The Kailyard guards unlocked the cell door with their access code and pushed the bars back fully. I flicked a look at Luke. He was tense, like a coiled spring. The smaller of the guards stepped forward towards us brandishing his rifle.
"Now!" hissed Luke, and as one we dodged around either side of the guard and sprinted out of the cell towards the huge airlock-style door that was the only escape from the lab. The other guard tried to tackle Luke's legs, but Luke swerved out of the way at the last minute and the guard hit the floor hard. I had been keeping my eyes on the two cyborgs nervously, because I could be sure that their reactions would be better than anybody's, but they made no move until we had left the cell and were hurtling across the length of the lab towards the door. Then, in unison, X-1 and X-2 raised their right forearms so that they were perpendicular to their bodies. Sections of their body armour slid away and streamlined particle cannons emerged from their wrists, their laser sights trained on the back of our ankles.
"Hold fire." said the Elder calmly, as we reached the other side of the lab. The two guards who had started to make chase slowed and stopped. The group of five baddies watched us fumble with the enormous door mechanism. We managed to disengage the main lever, not realising that our pursuers had apparently given up. The big white door door came open smoothly with Luke and I both putting all of our strength behind it, and we slipped through the crack into the inky darkness beyond. The Elder's eyes narrowed, and he licked his lips with his long, reptillian tongue.
"They won't get far." --------------- - Chapter 4/5 - --------------- We were running down corridors for what felt like ages. Every so often as I watched those indentical, clinical white walls flash past, I wondered if we had already got lost and doubled back on ourselves. Perhaps any second we would burst in on the same lab we had fled from, to find the Elder, his guards and the two cyborg warriors standing still waiting for us. Every so often we hit a junction of some description, and Luke would usually let his his directional instinct guide us in one way or another. I stopped trying to make a mental map of the ship pretty early on, and it was then that I started to really worry about what was going to happen to us. It occured to me that if the Kailyards had any kind of surveillance equipment whatsoever it probably wouldn't take them very long to track us down and drag us back to the Primary Ward, with its ominous-sounding mass-conversion facilities.
"Lu... Luke! Hey, man, we have to find a way out of this."
"Well, what've you got in mind, then?" he replied without stopping for a moment. I looked carefully at the smooth white walls all around us as we raced round the next corner. Every other wall segment was fitted with a small, rectangular air-grille at about knee height.
"Well, uh, what 'bout one of these air-vents?" I panted. I saw Luke look down around him as if he hadn't noticed them before. Then, with a shrug, he stopped suddenly and crouched down, trying to prise his fingernails under the edge of the grille. I stopped running too, nearly tripping over him in the process. I bent over, my hands on the front of my thighs, wheezing. The middle of Luke's t-shirt in front of me was wet with sweat.
"Worth a go..." Luke mumbled. The grille appeared to be made of a different material to the wall around it, and was shiny and brittle. At first it looked as if it was flush with the wall, and then, with a self-congratulatory whistle, Luke managed to ease it away a fraction of an inch. "Here, gimme a hand." he said, and I crouched down next to him and put my fingers into the crack on the other side. In a matter of seconds the grille was on the floor, revealing the entrance to a small, dark tunnel of indeterminate length. "I'll go first." said Luke, and before I could reply he was inside, shuffling away into the gloom. I breathed in sharply. The hole in the wall looked like suicide, but I looked back the way we had come, or the way I thought we had come, and thought about the fate that awaited us back in the lab. I dived into the darkness.
We crawled through those atmosphere conduits for, I thought, about half an hour. Occasionally light filted into the tunnel through vents and access panels, and I caught a glimpse of Luke's Vans a few feet up ahead, before we were plunged back into darkness. Most of our journey through that warren-like network of tunnels and pipes was spent in silence. I still trusted Luke's superior sense of direction and mental map-making over my own, and for a time I was happy not to have to worry about watching a living nightmare enact before my eyes. I thought of my poor sister. I thought for ages about what I might have done to stop them doing what they did to her. I wondered for a while if she was still alive inside there; if maybe they hadn't found a way of getting at the human soul. Maybe somebody could change her back... Maybe we could stop it from having to happen to anyone else... My mood lightened as I realised that if we had managed to evade them thusfar, maybe we really were in with a chance. If we could get back to Earth and warn the authorities, then they'd be able to stop all this, for sure.
The first clue I had that we had finished our journey through those dark tunnels in the belly of the spaceship was when I actually hit Luke from behind. He had stopped crawling and was fiddling with something in front of him. I could just make out a dim, brownish glow coming from up ahead.
"What?" I grunted.
"Time to see where we've got ourselves." said Luke, and with a groan he pushed out of the way whatever the obstruction was. He crawled out of the conduit and stood up, dusting himself down. I crawled out after him and looked around. We had made it to some kind of cargo hold. The cavernous room felt about the size of a football pitch, with a high, vaulted roof far above. In contrast to the eye-straining whiteness of the rest of the ship, the hold was a murky gun-metal grey. It looked reassuringly grimy. We had emerged through an air-vent in an empty corner of the hold. Around the adjacent walls and over in the distance were crates stacked almost up to the ceiling, pallets, and strange alien machinery covered with translucent dust sheets. The whole room was illuminated by golden half-light from fluorescent pads way up in the ceiling. I looked to my right. The wall on that side sported portholes at regular intervals - small, rounded oblongs filled with a transparent material...
"Luke!" I yelled, whooping as I jogged over to the windows and gazed outside. It sunk home. We were drifting somewhere in space. A myriad stars filled the porthole. It didn't really look any different to the night sky back on Earth, but a horrible, sinister feeling flooded my senses and I recoiled, turning away from the porthole and burying my head in my hands. Maybe there was no going back home. Not in control of our own brains, anyway.
"Hey, Ads. Come on." came Luke's reassuring voice from behind me. "We can still find a way out of this. They must have some kind of escape pods on this fucking ship. We still have a chance."
I was silent. I wished I could believe him.
"Look, I mean..." Luke tailed off. Then he gasped. "Fuckin' hell, LOOK!" he yelled, jabbing his forefinger against the perspex-like window. I walked back over and peered through the porthole in the direction he was indicating. At first I could see nothing but more stars. And then, very small, away in the inky blackness, a familiar sphere...
"Earth. We're still near home." said Luke. My jaw dropped.
It was just then that we came in for a second surprise. There was a loud, static-like hiss behind us that seemed to reach out of speakers all over the hold, much as the Elder's voice had sounded to me earlier in the first cell block. We both whizzed around. This time it was different - before us, an eight-foot high 2-D hologram appeared bearing the face of the Kailyard Elder. It was like there had been an invisible cinema screen there all along, only it was clear that the pictures we saw were no horror film. The Elder addressed us in his usual pompous, rasping voice.
"I appreciate your attempt to escape from our clutches, Humans. It makes your fate all the more exquisite. Our sensors indicate you are in the unmanned lower decks of the ship. It is only a matter of time before my patrol squads track you both down and bring you here to me, where we shall finish what was begun."
("I wish he'd get to the point." hissed Luke. I grinned.)
"In the mean time, I feel it is my duty as host to provide my guests with some entertainment." The camera tracked back from the Elder's face to reveal that he was standing in a white-walled laboratory like the one in which we had been imprisoned earlier, only bigger. Behind the Elder was a row of ten almost cylindrical containers. They looked like advanced models of the table in the other lab, each sporting an open door fitted with a large clear viewing panel. My heart skipped a beat. "This is the Primary Ward, where most of our Human conversions take place. Behind me are ten of our most advanced Cybernization Pods, each of which has room for one human subject. Guards! Bring in the victims!" A couple of low-ranking Kailyard soldiers with rifles entered the shot from the side, leading a group of ten young, naked women. They all looked very scared, and I realised that the Kailyard Elder had probably taken great pleasure in explaining that they were going to be virtually turned into robots. There were girls of all different races and colours, but all of them were of similar height and had similar, uh, assets. They were all very pretty, and all probably just out of their teens. Looking nervously at each other and at the room, each one had a look of mortal fear.
"I thought perhaps Humans of the opposite gender to yourselves would be most appropriate. Install the subjects in the Pods!" The reptillian guards, brandishing their rifles viciously, forced each of the girls in turn to step inside a Pod. Once they were all in position, there was a loud hissing sound, and the doors of the pods began to close, securing the girls into position. Each girl was now held tightly by her arms and legs, with her breasts pressed up against the clear Pod door, which also allowed us to watch as their eyes darting round wildly in terror. One screamed a muffled scream.
"Let the entertainment commence!! Begin cybernizations!" called the Elder, and with a final grin towards the camera, stepped out of shot. What happened next on the screen was grim, but predictable. I looked at Luke briefly. He was gazing at the hologram projection with the same disgust and anger as me. Brainwashing headsets descended onto the girls' heads and started to enslave their minds to the computer. Smooth, gleaming metal armour encased their nubile bodies. I heard the Kailyard Elder cackle in the background.
And then the camera, taking great pleasure in showing us the details of the process once again, zoomed in on the first of the girls so that we could see things up close. She looked very innocent and very scared. Her brain was being taken over and computerized. Soon she would be walking mechanically and talking in a flat synthesised drone. I remember wishing that there was something we could do to save her, when I heard a sob from beside me. I turned to look at Luke to see that he was crying into his hands. He turned his head from the hologram screen and looked at me through tearful eyes.
"Alice... Fuck, man, it's Alice..."
I looked back at the screen and realised what he had noticed. The girl to the right of the one the camera was trained on, whose face was only partly visible. It was his girlfriend of almost two years, Alice. Sure enough, the camera slowly tracked over to the right, and Alice's pretty face came fully into view. From the way she was defiantly screwing up her eyes, the computer systems had not yet been able to brainwash her, but from the way her lithe body was being sheathed in robo-armour, it was only a matter of time. I groaned. Luke began to blubber.
"Oh no, please God no. Not her, not her..."
"Come on, Luke. There's nothing you can do."
"How can you be like that? How can you say that to me? I'm gonna stop them if it KILLS ME!" he yelled, his sobs subsiding into rage. He thrust me aside and sprinted through the hologrammatic projection, towards the main hold door on the opposite side of the room.
"Luke, no! We have to get back to Earth!"
"Fuck you, man. If you won't help me, I'm going it alone." he spat, and with that he dived into the shute and was gone. I thought about going after him for a few seconds. Maybe I owed him that, as a friend. Then I pulled myself together. I couldn't let myself get emotional. That had been Brett's downfall, and now it might be Luke's too. I looked back at the massive hologram screen in front of me. The Kailyard Elder stepped back into the picture and addressed us again.
"Maybe now you are starting to understand. Your plans to warn your fellow Humans are futile. You are already too late. Already our cyborg army is growing. Soon they will take Earth by force, starting with the important cities of your planet. Rome, New York, Sydney, London, St Petersburg, Bombay, Capetown, Rio de Janeiro. They will fall quickly, and then we will spread our attack outwards. We will infiltrate your systems of power and government. Those physically and mentally suitable will be cybernized, and the rest will be enslaved. There is no hope. Surrender now."
And with that the transmission ended. The hologram screen folded and disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, and then I was alone in the cold, dingy cargo hold.
For a time I stood still, not sure where to turn or what my course of action ought to be. Then I turned around and gazed out of the porthole for a while, watching the stars. I watched Earth quietly spinning away in the distance, and wondered what a world of slaves ruled over by a master-race of cyborgs would be like to live in. Maybe the human spirit could still triumph against the superior technological and intellectual power of the Kailyard. Maybe those little countries down on that planet would stop squabbling amongst each other and work in unison towards a common goal. Maybe this nightmare was not as inevitable as the Kailyard believed.
I turned away from the porthole and sank to the floor. I wondered how long it had been since I had slept. Probably not too long, but the events of the past few hours had aged me drastically. I thought about my own bed in my own home back on Earth. I thought of my mother. I thought of Rebecca.
I wondered if everything I was experiencing was all a bad dream. Was I about to wake up, any second? I tried to think how long ago Luke had ran off. Maybe half an hour ago. I wondered where he was.
I leant back against the cool, grey metal wall behind me and closed my eyes. I couldn't cope with this. Not now. I couldn't take the weight of the world on my shoulders. I needed rest.
I slept a dreamless sleep.
--------------- - Chapter 5/5 - ---------------
What's that noise?
The clank of metal on metal.
And a voice:
"Do not move. You are a Kailyard prisoner. You will obey."
I open my eyes and look up. Something big is standing in front of me. I can see three red glows - two set into the thing's face as eyes and one from the laser sight on the end of its particle cannon, trained right on my forehead. A cyborg. They've found me.
"Stand up." says the cyborg, and the voice sounds familiar, like an old friend. As my eyes come into focus and I start to come around, I look at its armour-plated legs. I look up at its huge armour-plated chest and arms. Then I look up even further and see the cyborg's face. It has the face of an old friend too. I stand up suddenly, and the cyborg's cannon remains trained between my eyes.
The cyborg who has tracked me down and captured me was once Luke. His body is mostly cybernetic now, but he still has his old face. Only now that face is emotionless and cold. His eyes glow red. He has microchips and wires around his temples and forehead, and a substantial metal helmet adorns his head. His lips are pale blue, the colour of death. They move, and he speaks in a clipped, robotic voice.
"I am not Luke. I am now a cyborg. You have been deemed suitable for cybernization. You will become as I am. You will obey." He walks behind me, his hydraulic muscles hissing and purring, his body-armour clanking, and digs his particle cannon into the small of my back. "Walk." he says.
He leads me to the opposite side of the cargo hold, where a large section of the wall has been blasted away by energy weapons, presumably from where he burst in. Once through the hole, we rejoin the network of gleaming white corridors I know so well. We walk for a long time. I keep on wanting to turn around and look at Luke's cybernized body again, but the feel of his weapon behind me terrifies me into silently keeping my distance. I am starting to get really scared. After a few turns, we enter a different section of the ship. The decor is starting to look very familiar. I realise that we are nearing the Primary Ward.
I am taken into a small antechamber whose walls glow a soft yellow. I am told to remove all of my clothes. I stand naked in the room as I am irradiated and checked for physical imperfections. Then I am taken into a much larger chamber which adjoins the small room. I am with nine other humans, some men, some women. We are all naked. They all look frightened. I guess I must do too. The girls all look very hot. I briefly consider what they will look and sound like when they have been cybernized, when they are encased in tight robo-armour and are freshly programmed. The idea is scary, and yet I am alarmed to find some dark, dingy corner of my mind becoming excited.
I recognise this room as the Primary Ward itself. Its main wall is lined with empty Cybernization Pods, with open doors. We are forced to step into the Pods. I feel my wrists and ankles being locked into position. There is a very loud sound and the door shuts. I can still see through the clear view-screen in front of me. I see the Kailyard Elder stand in front of my cubicle and make a few comments to one of his subordinates, but I can't really hear what they are saying. But I watch his lips. And I shudder with fear as I watch him mouth the words:
There is another very loud sound, this time above me. My head is being shaved. The hairs are sucked into a disposal chute. Then something is lowered onto my head. It feels cool against my bare scalp. There is a click as it contracts to fit my cranium. I realise that I can no longer move my head or neck, only my eyes.
Then it begins.
I can hear strange sounds in my ears, like a modem or a fax machine. Like computers talking to one another. My body begins to course with electricity. I feel it flowing through and around me, purifying me and enhancing me. All of my nerves feel like they are on fire. I think that tiny wires are beginning to cover my arms, my legs and my chest. I want to try and resist, but there are voices in my mind, voices telling me to relax, relax and obey. I'm not sure if I am imagining the voices or if the computer has put them there. I am starting to feel... different. Things are being inserted into my head. Microchips and cybernetic components are connecting to my brain and making me robotic. Pain courses through my system and I gasp. I can see the Kailyard Elder watching me keenly through the door. Standing next to him are some cyborgs. One of them is Luke. Another is Alice. Soon I will become as they are. I am no longer afraid.
It is the end.
My body is becoming stronger. My arms and legs are being packed with hydraulics and robotic parts. I am beginning to feel my mind changing too. My thoughts are becoming more logical and ordered. My memories are slipping away from me. I am becoming happy to be controlled. I hope that all other Humans will have the opportunity to feel like this. I know that my body is now partly mechanical. I can feel more microchips and circuit-boards being fitted into my brain. I know that my body is about to be clad in hard titanium armour. On either side of me, I know that nine other humans are being cybernized. Soon they will join me as cyborgs. My eyes are red now. I can see words and symbols in front of my eyes. I can feel the computer taking over my brain and becoming part of me. i can feel the robot in my body.
it is the end
i am becoming a cyborg
i will obey
"Download core program!" comes a voice from somewhere very far away.
i feel the data
i understand now
i will obey
i am ready to help my masters take over Earth