The Mercury Experiment
Legend of The Ire
A light flickered over a pale room. Damp. Cold.
In the centre of the room a lone hospital bed sat under uncertain shadows.
"Bring her in." A deep voice said over the speaker. It echoed into the empty.
The door opened and a young girl was pushed through the doorway. Her feet bare, hair dark, wild and unruly, eyes a piercing intensity as they stared through a tuft of fringe. Ice blue.
Aya was afraid. But she wouldn't show it to them. The Researchers. The reason for the demise of the New World. She knew they were watching her from behind the safety of their glass. God forbid their newest experiment went awry.
Short puffed breaths clogged the microphone and reverberated against her ears. Aya heard the whisper of, "She's so young," but it became a distant fade as it dissolved into the rhythm of the flickering light.
Aya was nine when the Initiative ripped her from her parents. Their screams still trickled into the back of her mind in their lament.
Her life hadn't been bad. But to watch the suffering of children younger than her brought into the program had burned fire in her stomach and etched something deep within her skin.
Her hatred for them was pure.
Even as they fed her.
Even as they trained her body to be strong. Trained her. A weapon in progress.
Every soul under their control was peeled back to the bone.
Because of them the earth was a dank dark wasteland. The crumbled buildings and rotting pieces of technology - piles of junk - littered the streets of every major city.
It had been one thousand years since the introduction of Valadan's to society. The newest technological advancement. The strength of the military, the comfort to loved ones, the ability to become. That was what every giant animated billboard had said, every radio station - every TV ad.
The ability to become.
It was discovered on Mercury by the Mercury Initiative. They were supposed to be making the planet viable for human life. Instead, they stumbled across an incredible mineral-like object. It was glowing sunlight in a cave and so bright that they had to wear protective equipment to look upon it. It was heart shaped and compared to the likes of a Locket from the Old World. But it was so much more.
The newly named Valadan could be bonded with human DNA. It did something incredible to their bodies and gave them abilities only heard of in storybooks.
That was all the Initiative needed.
It was distributed by the thousands and given to every human who had the means and to every human that could owe a debt. The ability to fly, superhuman strength, agility - they had it all at their fingertips.
But just one year into the program two cataclysmic things happened.
Humanity discovered that once fitted with a Valadan, it acted as a life force. Damage occurring to said Valadan, or the removal of it would incur sudden death for the possessor.
And there were still those in society who had tainted minds. In no century could mankind had ever hoped to have eradicated them.
When the Valadan was inserted into those humans it did something different. Something that the Initiative could not reverse.
The darkness that swam around in their minds was corrupted.
Nursed in the arms of the mineral and brought to life in the form of a mutation.
The humans who became corrupted turned into terrifying, vicious versions of what they once were. Their darkness became an outward expression of sharp teeth, claws, red glowing eyes and skin that looked as though it were rotting from their faces.
They brought the world to ruin.
They were named the Tainted Ones.
The Initiative took measures to secure the Tainted Ones. They attempted to capture those that they knew of and dumped them in the Forest of the Ire. Unfortunately for Aya that had been her home town.
They had been hidden for years from the Initiative. Safe from the New World. But when the Initiative discovered that people still lived in the Ire's town they attempted to evacuate them, killed those whom got in their way and stole their children.
Experimented on them.
That was how Aya ended up at the Mercury Initiative Headquarters.
That was how she lost her home.
That was how she was standing in a room examined by researchers, waiting to try their last experiment on Aya.
Her training had ended.
The Initiative only had one batch of Valadan's left. They had mutated the mineral in the hopes that the newest generation of Valadan holders would be able to erase any trace of the Tainted Ones and save humanity.
To another child the lone hospital bed with a claw-like machine and flickering light would have been enough to make them a bumbling mess. But Aya had been living in a nightmare. Nothing really scared her anymore. Not outwardly.
She was taken to the hospital bed with each limb strapped down. She looked up. Aya had never seen a Valadan up close, not without it being attached to a human. The golden glow of a heart comforted her briefly.
The claw lowered the Valadan - her chest now bare - she willed herself to stay calm. She knew it would hurt. But as the Valadan got closer to her skin and she watched the tendrils break from the heart, inching toward her, she felt panicked.
Each tendril dug deep and she began to writhe in pain as it spread through her body. Her eyes widened and glowed as light began to illuminate her whole form as the Valadan moulded with her DNA.
And then there was darkness.
Biting wind. The rustling of trees.
She blinked hazily.
A thrum in her chest.
Aya shot into a sitting position, hands grasping at the dirt of the dusty ground. She was outside.
With heavy breaths she pushed herself to stand - clutching at the raw of her skin where her Valadan sat in its new home.
As she examined each crevice of the area, her eyes scanning methodically, recognition knocked on her bones.
This was her home.
She walked hastily. Knowing what she could have to face if she stayed in one spot for too long.
Her mind threw thoughts like thunder. Quick and abrasive.
This was a test.
They wanted her to fight something. To see what her new skills would be. Of course the Initiative would do something this heartless. They only knew the word heartless.
"At least they didn't throw me directly into the forest." She thought.
The town was dilapidated. But her blackened heart couldn't help but hope, even as she stared at the crumbled buildings.
Maybe her parents had survived?
She found her house. Still one of the few intact.
Broken tiles littered the entrance and she had to lift a collapsing door from the frame just to enter.
Her mind briefly acknowledged the new strength that she possessed. She was sure wherever the Initiative were watching from, that they were pleased.
As she stepped through the archway, dust scattering at her feet, she heard rustling.
She didn't talk yet.
With shallow breaths she walked through the house. Searching.
A sudden rustling caught her senses and she froze. She shuffled along the hall wall, careful not to trip on broken pieces.
Her heart fumbled as the rustling grew quieter.
"H-Hello?" She called. Hesitant.
She heard panicked movements as she rounded the corner of the hall.
The soft worn face of her mother met her eyes and something forcefully sobbed its way from her body, "Mum." It was quiet.
Colour appeared to drain from her mother's face as her eyes filled with trembling tears, "Aya!"
Suddenly Aya was surrounded by loving arms. Three years was a long time to be separated. But the warmth of her mother's hold still felt as comforting as it had. Safe.
Her mother sobbed uncontrollably as she held Aya close, "I can't believe you're alive." She cried.
"Aya!" She heard her father's voice from behind, a deep baritone she could have never forgotten.
Her mother let her go and moved as Aya smiled vaguely at her father, standing at the end of the hall with tears in his eyes.
His smile was quiet, proud, eyes shining as he stared upon his long lost daughter.
And then something spattered across each edge of the hall and over Aya's face. Her eyes never left her father, but his left hers as life faded from him.
Her mother screamed.
Aya stared. Unmoving. A claw visibly stretched its rotten extremities through the hole in her father's chest. Gripping tightly to his Valadan.
A horrifying crunch.
A crack of a rib.
The hand retracted. Her father's body collapsed and blood poured from the gaping wound.
The Tainted One stepped over him.
Looked at Aya.
Then he took the Valadan and ravenously swallowed it whole behind jagged teeth.
"No!" Aya screamed.
But it was too late.
Tears swarmed her cheeks and her whole body shook as she watched her father's body crumble and dissolve from existence.
She fell to her knees.
Her mother was a fit of rage and sorrow as she ran toward the Tainted One with a knife, screaming as it left her lungs.
She dodged a sharpened claw, slicing at the side of the monster.
Its snarl was terrifying. Its eyes glowed red as it jumped forward, throwing her mother to the ground.
Aya broke away from her fear, bounding down the hall. She could save her. She could do it.
But the Tainted One's claw was fast as it ripped her mother's Valadan from her chest. More blood. It pooled deep onto the floors of the room.
Aya glanced at her mother's eyes as they flickered into the dark.
A sorrow kissed scream.
A terrified scream.
A rage-filled scream.
The monster took no note of her as it sucked the power from her mother's Valadan.
Aya felt fire coursing through her blood - her chest burning and palpitating as her rage continued to leave her in roaring screams.
She began to glow - every single section of her body enveloped in light. She held hellfire in her hands and the monster stumbled back from her but only appeared startled.
Its eyes locked on the red glow on her chest and it launched at her, ravenous once again. Unsated.
Aya lifted her flaming hands and with seething rage suffocated the creature in fire that devoured. She smirked as its screams of pain comforted the loss she was feeling.
But it wasn't enough.
It would never be enough for what it did.
She suspended the creature in the air - sending it crashing through the walls and out into the dirt.
As Aya stepped through the fractured wall she felt satisfaction as it whimpered and crawled away from her.
Aya embraced the rage.
It coursed through her veins and every fibre of her being.
She dived onto it, fiery hands ripping at rotting flesh.
She screamed again. And again.
Her body shaking.
Every aspect of her humanity ineffable.
Her eyes glowed red and she exuded power as the flames around her grew wild and enraged.
Her power called to the vines in the earth and they wrapped around the monsters arms and legs, holding it in place.
Her hand was fast to meet the splintered glow of the Tainted One's Valadan.
She felt heat, scolding and quick in the palm of her hand. Watched as the tainted Valadan vibrated and its tendrils released and stuck over and over into the monsters chest.
Aya screamed as pain clawed up her arm, tearing at her skin.
It was brief.
It was quick.
It was something.
The next scream that left the abominable creature sounded nothing like the demonic growl of a Tainted One.
Aya looked down.
It was human.