PROLOGUE ~ BROKEN HALO
DISTRICT OF ARIES
Splashes of color, from abstract paintings broke up the glossy white walls while softening the sterile feeling of the reception gallery. Treated air-conditioned air kept the heat from invading the building through the wall of windows, and the crowded room at a comfortable temperature. She leaned back in the hard plastic chair, its high-end design serving for looks, not comfort, and watched the crowd. All around them, people talked, their collective chatter becoming a low hum.
“This is a waste of my time,” Prima complained. Making no attempt to keep from being overheard, he looked around, his eyes skating over the room. If he found one of the assistants, he was going to demand to see their superior.
Hana checked their surroundings, saw no one was watching them or had heard him, met his irritated gaze, and smiled. “If they don’t have what we’re looking for, we’ll have to leave the territory. This meeting took weeks to schedule. I’m waiting.”
“I have a contact—”
Hana stopped him with her hushed voice and said, “Please, let’s listen to what they have to say and give them a chance.”
Prima held his wife’s gaze, irritated she interrupted him, and prepared to finish what he was going to say. He would convince her the territory in Nevada, Black Rock, was safe. As a precaution, he would put safeguards in place and use watchmen and an armored escort. He might be feeling desperate but he wasn’t going to take unnecessary risks. The trip into the inner district of Born Valley might take them a day, at most.
He could handle the pressure from the board but his team was a different kind of hell. They were targeting him from all sides when the timeline for the project took a beating with one deadline passing and another approaching. There were details he had to finalize, meaning he didn’t care and would delay it for as long as possible. But it didn’t change his escalating stress level. And waiting, in the gallery full of people, was feeding his stress.
“Prima, please. This is important to both of us,” Hana pleaded and swept a veil of innocence over her face. She wanted it over with.
Sweetness. His gaze softened with the memory of her pet name as he met her gentle sky blue eyes. “I’ll not wait an hour longer.” Prima brought himself back to the present and donned his cold expression.
“Good afternoon, I’m Arial.” Her porcelain skin, ringing voice, and almond shaped bright yellow eyes streaked with black, gave away her artificial intelligence. “My apologies for the wait. Dr. Strallen and Mrs. Strallen, please, this way.” Arial stepped to the side, wore a slight smile, her hands folded in front of her silver blouse, and waited.
Hana slowly stood, her muscles stinging with pain. “Thank you.”
Prima held her hand and inwardly groaned over his wife saying thank you to a machine. If they were going to have a guard, a hired killer, she was going to have to understand the difference.
“I hope you were comfortable?” Arial asked. They weaved through people, and passing several groups seated at tables, made their way out of the reception gallery.
“As comfortable as one can be waiting,” Prima answered before Hana could.
Arial’s head turned slightly, moving her short rose colored hair. “My apologies, Dr. Strallen. I have made a note. Mrs. Strallen, are you comfortable?”
“Yes, thank you.” Hana grabbed Prima’s hand and squeezed. With his brows drawn, he gave her a sideways glance expressing his frustration, you’re the only reason I’m here, and lack of care.
The three of them left the gallery, the chatter, and entered a hallway in silence. Passing doors, each identified with intricate symbols, numbers, and a hand-held tablet, the wide hallway continued. The same glossy white walls, art, and marble flooring transporting them deeper into the facility. Hana’s sandals made whispers while Arial’s heels clicked, the sharpness echoing off the walls.
Click. Click. Click. With a lazy back and forth, rose hair moved with her measured steps. Not too fast. Not too slow.
The cold hallway ended at an open room, the bank of windows and doors letting the sunlight in while its reflection cast disrupted images on the floor. Arial chose a door, opened it and a wall of heat met them. “We’ll continue to the observation building.”
A veil of air thick with steam slipped over her exposed skin at the same time it sank into the cotton fabric of her dress. Humidity, she hated it. Wearing it like a second skin, Hana inhaled, the taste of foliage met her mouth, and she fought the rise of nausea in her stomach. She focused on her steps, one after another, and struggled to keep pace with Prima and Arial.
“Why?” Prima asked. “Why aren’t we in the main building?” He glanced at his wife, saw sweat immediately beading on her forehead, and back to Arial.
“It’s suited for your needs. Chancellor Hangar has personally looked over your request and is meeting you there,” Arial explained. Her voice never wavered. No anger. No annoyance. Emotionless facts.
Arial guided them across the courtyard, a water feature, its trickling stream flowing to another flowerbed clustered with vivid blooms their heads balancing on thick green stalks. The balmy air thickened around the flowers, and Hana gazed at them and knew they weren’t real. More engineering. There was an instant dislike for the faux plants. What happened to Mother Nature? She didn’t make it through the Divergence. Hana cringed with her thoughts. It was the reason they were there. The Divergence and its aftermath. Beside them the water flowed, its turquoise ripples catching the lemon color of the sun. Arial circled the fountain, the humidity moved over them in waves, when another row of glass doors came into view. Choosing one, she opened it and waited.
Hana walked inside and into a wall of cool air. It swept over her, stole the heat, and soaked up the sheen of sweat from her cheeks. Prima followed, unfazed, his hand at the small of her back, his presence feeling the same as a weight, like the balmy heat, behind her.
Blue-gray marble flooring met steely walls replacing the sterile white, while portraits framed in black took the place of the bright abstract art. Military officers, sports athletes, academic professors, doctors, and men and women in civilian clothing stared at them from their frames as they passed. Without stopping, Arial continued through the colonnade thick with silence and empty of people.
Down another narrow hallway, LED lighting cast a glare on the bare walls. Arial stopped at a door, placed her slender palm against the wall bringing a panel to life. When it glowed scarlet, her tendons shined, and lifting her hand, the door slid into a pocket. They entered the room, furnished with tables and chairs, and followed Arial across its expanse. She stopped, repeated the process at yet another door, and stepped aside.
“This is your suite,” Arial told them. “Chancellor Hangar will greet you shortly.”
“We are waiting … again?” Prima asked. His impatience blatant in his voice.
“Accept my apology. It will be but a moment.” Arial smiled, her indifference as plain as Prima’s frustration.
Her husband seemed to like being frustrated, angry, and impatient. She on the other hand, welcomed the change from the busy reception area where they had been waiting, and watching others like them. The warm glow from hidden lighting made the suite intimate as did the soft floral fragrance. She inhaled the semi-sweet scent and the combination settled her nerves and eased her worry. Hana sat down, thankful for the comfortable chair and tried to relax. It was not meant to be when Prima sat beside her, his frustration seeping from him and changing her mood. It wasn’t uncommon for her. He hated to wait. More than once he stated he detested the reception gallery, the people, and their incompetence. And she could tell by the way he jerked his chair, he was ready to leave. She inwardly sighed. Hana was tired of the constant search for the perfect guard, and was convinced Prima was never going to be satisfied.
“Dr. Strallen, Mrs. Strallen, welcome. I’m Chancellor Hangar.”
“Nice to meet you,” Hana replied. Placing her hands on the rails of the chair, she started to stand.
“Please, don’t get up,” Chancellor Hangar insisted.
“Thank you.” Hana softly laughed and eased back.
Prima stood. “Chancellor Hangar, we’ve waited most of the day. I would like to get this started.”
“Of course, Dr. Strallen. Let me start by saying, I commend you on your forward thinking and taking the first step with seeking the finest protection for your family.” Chancellor Hangar walked to a wall and faced them.
“That remains to be seen,” Prima pointed out and sat down. He shifted in his seat, crossed his legs, and wore doubt on his face.
Chancellor Hangar folded his hands, the ring of rubies and diamonds, giving authority to his title, caught light and gleamed. “Let me show you. Begin Corporation statement. Dr. Strallen and Mrs. Strallen, please, direct your attention to the monitor.” His smooth voice was followed by a soft chime, the lights dimmed to a low glow, at the same time an image of the Omega Centauri complex changed the wall.
‘Our testament begins with the progressive philosophy and unwavering ethics of our doctors, researchers, and developers. Their commitment to the advancement of our population is evident by the superiority of their success.’
With a crystal azure sky a backdrop, images of opulent estates with lush lawns, happy couples, families, and children faded in with a gentle melody. They wore easy smiles on their faces, amusement in their eyes, and their laughter seemed to float from somewhere in the room. They were enjoying the relaxed environment open for them. Like every family. The flawless setting continued with the couple kissing, the family members taking turns kicking a bright red ball. ‘This is a normal way of life. People are happy. From the air they breathe and the grass beneath their feet, they believe their security is definite. Like you, they are living the dream. Like the world you live in, the perfect setting can turn tragic. The securities you believe are yours can be stolen.’ The scene darkened, the estate and couples disappeared into the background making the children the focus.
The frolicking cluster stopped playing to watch a black truck, its bed turned cage, slowly approach the park. Hana knew where this was going and didn’t want the commercial turned docudrama to continue. The truck stopped, a masked man, armed, and dressed in tan fatigues got out. The children’s faces held their innocence of play for several moments before twisting in fear. The stranger watched as one by one, the children started to run. Deploying from the truck, two men quickly chased after the helpless group. As they ran in different directions, the men easily grabbed two girls, their blue eyes wide with terror, their whimpers turning to whispers. The men held the squealing girls as if challenging the others and finally rounded and returned to the truck. They bullied the small girls, bound their wrists and ankles and placed them inside the cage. Behind them, the man dressed in fatigues fired at the retreating children. The gunshots sounded from the walls around them, followed by high-pitched screams and yells, making Hana flinch. One boy tumbled to the ground followed by another. No one stopped to check on the wounded, wild with fear, they continued to run. The gunman, satisfied, hurriedly returned to the truck, got behind the steering wheel and sped away.
‘Affluent families are facing this kind of heartbreak every day. Their children are pursued, kidnapped, and held for ransom. Or the parents are coerced to fulfill unreasonable requests resulting in their deaths. There are those who will learn their children, their family members have been brutally murdered. Who’s responsible? Extremists. They believe they are doing work for a higher purpose. They are exposing the sins of their targets to the public and are carrying out self-ascribed death penalties.’
The sky darkens as if it understands the crimes committed, the camera pans out, and the neighborhood is empty. There are no couples. No families. No children. The estates are abandoned. The grass is dying.
‘Law abiding citizens are moving to gated communities and modifying their routines in a desperate attempt to eliminate the chances of becoming victims. These are the turbulent times we live in.’ The sun brightens the scene, the sky blazes blue, the grass is greener nearly emerald, and the park is crowded once more. ‘For some. Omega Centauri, the leading corporation in personal security for the elite. As the industry leader in germline genetic modification, we can give you the tailored security to fit the needs to protect your spouse, your daughter, your son, your entire family. Omega Centauri gives its guarantee to the Constellation territories in providing the finest.’
The image of the complex fades in revealing cars in the parking lot, doctors walking into the building, while representatives and assistants, resembling Arial, talked with individuals, families, and couples. People are smiling and laughing, the scene of the girls being kidnapped from their neighborhood, while two young boys are gunned down, are easily replaced.
‘We utilize the DNA of military strategists, academic leaders, and the top athletes. Each Omega Halo receives training, updating, and reevaluation throughout its service. These statements are brought to you by the board of chancellors and are bound by a lifetime guarantee.’
The scene fades out clearing the panel and the music changes to a classical piece. It ends, at least she hopes it’s the end, and a shadow passes across her face when the tag line ‘Omega Centauri is the one in a million for … Your one in a million’ fills the panel.
“The introduction can feel intense, and the scenes threatening as they induce an emotional reaction. Mrs. Strallen, are you comfortable? Is there anything I can get for you?” Chancellor Hangar asked as he faced her, his ashen eyes narrowing on her.
Well played, they used girls as an example. “Thank you, I’m fine.” Hana smiled, shifting, she gave her husband a glance and squeezed his hand. She wasn’t comfortable. The scenarios worked like a charm on her. Yes, I want what you’re selling. Can I have two?
“Excellent. Moving along, 13M79 is ready for the demonstration.” Chancellor Hangar waved his hand over the left corner of the panel bringing a digital keypad to life.
“Wait a minute, Chancellor. I’ve watched your … commercial. I’m not committing to anything, we have to think about what you’ve told us.” Prima was standing and waiting for Hana.
“Dr. Strallen, please be seated. The corporations you have visited haven’t shown you a successful demonstration,” Chancellor Hangar challenged. He touched several symbols, the music stopped, the panel slid open revealing a training room. In different heights, platforms resembling buildings filled the arena. Sticking out from walls and platforms were exposed pipes, rails, and metal stairs turning the room into an urban setting. Into any city damaged from the Divergence, the raving half humans left behind, and time.
Prima gauged the obstacle course trying to decide if he was going to waste more of his afternoon. Yes. He needed this. He sat down.
Hana sat straighter, her eyes darting between the chancellor and the window. “A live demonstration?” What was she going to hear? What was she going to see? She grabbed Prima’s hand, the scene of the girls being kidnapped fresh in her mind.
“We stand behind our statement and therefore will prove ourselves to you while proving Omega Halos are capable of achieving the objective,” Chancellor Hangar responded. “Dr. Strallen, do you have any questions before we begin?”
Prima considered the chancellor and his wife. The future was unpredictable without manipulation. But it was there and the threat alone pushed him to find a suitable guard. A ruthless guardian. A grin tried curving his lips when he stopped. His face remained neutral. Indifferent. “I understand the difference between Omega Halos and the others is their age.”
“You are correct. Omega Centauri owns the licenses on fetal and adolescence generation. In case, I have not made myself clear, 13M79 is male.” Chancellor Hangar watched Dr. Strallen consider his answer.
Male. “When the Halo grows into a man, will he be responsive to new orders? Will he take orders?” Prima asked. Was he searching for a reason to walk out? No. He was being meticulous.
“Affirmative. Understand, he will not endanger the life of his objective. It would go against his core instinct.”
“I see. Continue.” Prima freed his hand from his wife’s clutch, and turned his attention to the training room.
“As you wish.” Chancellor Hangar touched another symbol.
In silence they watched an overhead light illuminate a door. It slid open and a small boy, dressed in a tight-fitting body suit, wearing running shoes, and his black hair cut close to his skull, walked into the room. He didn’t look at the window, he stood, his arms at his sides, like a miniature soldier, and staring forward, waited.
“13M79 execute objective 2.1,” Chancellor Hangar ordered. He faced the couple. “The best time through the obstacle course is fifteen seconds.”
Unemotional and without responding, the boy waited. A green light flashed and 13M79 ran across the room, jumped to a pipe, grasped it with his hands and swung around making a full circle. When he let go, he tucked his legs and after a flip, straightened and landed on the top platform. He immediately started a series of pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and when completed, he stood at the edge of the platform. Without a running start, he leaped across a large gap toward another platform.
Hana drew a sharp breath and held it. The corner of the next platform gleamed in the light highlighting its sharp edge. Airborne, she feared he wasn’t going to make it to the other side and couldn’t stop the surprise that his small form moved with strength. He cleared the platform, landed softly, on the balls of his feet and started in the direction of another obstacle.
Chancellor Hangar listened to Mrs. Strallen’s quick breath and smiled with arrogance. “Omega Halos are placed in designated populations. This organization separates the strong and the physically apt, from those with expertise in academics. 13M79 is a Population Two Halo, and sits in the top five. His agility serves him well.”
Immediately irritated, Prima turned in his seat. “Chancellor, I came here ready to spare no expense. I don’t want top five. I want number one. He will protect my daughter’s life.” Prima shifted to see 13M79 successfully complete the last part of the obstacle course. He was unimpressed.
“Ten seconds. He beat it by five.”
“No offense. At this stage, I understand the training for physical dominance is crucial. Endurance. Durability. I need to know if he has had hand to hand combat training.”
“Of course. Execute objective 1.5,” Chancellor Hangar ordered.
“What is that?” Hana asked. Worry creased her face. He was nothing but a child. Fetal and adolescent generation? What was she thinking?
“A combative test.” Chancellor Hangar met Dr. Strallen’s questioning gaze. “If a Halo reaches the top five in Population Two status, they are all number one. Each has a natural trait, be it athletic, competitive, or empathic. As you have witnessed, 13M79’s physical stamina is unquestioned and he is decisive and calculating. While Omega Centauri systematically targets and eliminates the weaker human traits, remorse, dejection, fear, we cannot eradicate them all. The Halo is human, with human feelings. This is where others have been unsuccessful. By keeping a primitive human trait, and strengthening the instinct, it serves as a foundation. 13M79’s biological trait is a strong protective instinct. The instinct drives him. It becomes a physical need. Without it, he would have no purpose. At the same time, this weakness/strength automatically separates him from the others. After your interview with our counselor and having read your file, I felt 13M79 was the best choice.”
“They don’t have artificial intelligence? Like the assistant?” Prima asked. Not interested in humans.
“No. You waited in the gallery, were upset at having to do so, and again, you didn’t want to wait in the suite. Arial showed no sympathy. She was indifferent to your impatience. We could create a being with total AI, and inscribe the order to protect. No doubt, it would accomplish its objective. However, with a human being, there’s an instinctive need to serve. His sex will serve as another stimulus. He is male, will mature, and watch your daughter as she matures. Her feminine attributes will play into his masculinity creating an emotional link and a desire to become her protector. You can pay a guard to protect her and when pushed, he or she, will consider the consequences and hesitate. 13M79 won’t. This will be especially important considering your condition, Mrs. Strallen. It is a unique opportunity.”
Hana turned slightly, her hands resting on her rounded belly, and met Chancellor Hangar’s dull ashen eyes. He wasn’t completely human. Maybe he had been equipped with an artificial intelligence element. She wasn’t sure, she was positive his presence unnerved her as did the tests. “Is he aware? I mean, he looks like a five year old. How can a child understand his function?”
“Here at Omega Centauri each Halo is educated by the streaming system. A type of AI. When 13M79 retires for the night, his subconscious is actively retaining information, as if he has experienced scenarios, faced enemies, and formulated his tactics and carried them out. It becomes innate, natural. Before you is a five year child, however, in actuality his mental, physical, and emotional age is closer to twenty.” Chancellor Hangar chuckled. “That was the long answer. Yes, he is aware. More so, his understanding of his function will always progress.”
Prima watched 13M79 sweep kick the instructor, and with a fluid motion, stand and begin a violent assault. “I’m assuming he has had weapons training?”
“Extensive,” Chancellor Hangar answered. “With various armaments.”
“How advanced will he become?” Prima asked.
“Every Halo has heightened senses and increased strength, which are limitless. 13M79 will continue to receive training throughout his service and have all upgrades specific to his needs. It’s the reason we can offer the lifetime guarantee. Rest assured, Population Two Halos also have regeneration capabilities and those will evolve organically over time. Obviously, the stronger they are, the easier it is for them to regenerate. At this moment, 13M79 is at his peak strength. I will give you a demonstration.” Chancellor Hangar touched the two way window bringing the digital keypad to life. “I’ve loaded a scenario.”
“You didn’t order him?” Hana questioned.
“No. He is not aware of the scenario. The enemy does not give away his intent, hence 13M79 will experience a surprise attack.”
13M79 didn’t stop his assault when the lights in the arena dimmed and two men advanced from opposite corners. Without looking at the approaching threat, 13M79 retreated putting distance between himself and the instructor.
“He retreats?” Prima mocked.
“Patience.” Chancellor Hangar’s attention was on the scene and the approaching men.
The men took their places beside the instructor and attacked at once. 13M79’s eyes darted between the three men, and picking his target, advanced. Dodging the instructor’s fist, he punched his target’s thigh, in a blur turned to deliver another fist to the back of the knee and then the target’s lower back. The target’s balance faltered, his knee gave out and he slammed to the floor. 13M79 gripped his head and twisted, letting go, the target fell forward. Using the second 13M79 spent on the first target, the second landed a punch. 13M79 stumbled to the left, blood seeped from a cut above his eyebrow, and slid down his cheek. He took one uneven step and faced the second target.
“A scratch, but you will notice, the wound has healed.”
“Did he kill the man?” Hana asked.
“Yes. It’s his function.”
“You’ve shown us he can maneuver through an urban setting, defend himself, and kill someone, if necessary. Can you prove to us, he will protect a person?” Prima asked.
“Impossible. We don’t give the Halos simulated objectives. 13M79 will have only one.” Chancellor Hangar looked at Mrs. Strallen. “You are eight months along in your pregnancy, yes.”
“A little over. I have three weeks,” Hana answered. “Why do you ask?”
“When you take possession of 13M79, his curiosity will have him investigating. He needs to analyze his surroundings, understand the security and learn his surroundings. It’s imperative you allow him to experience your daughter’s life. Her room. Her cries. His senses need to know her by smell, feel, the way she sounds, and he needs to watch her. He will know by the pitch of her voice whether she is in trouble. He will be able to track your daughter by her scent. Your daughter will become his prime objective. He will become her shadow.”
With no signs of weakness, 13M79 directed his attention to the instructor. He jumped, landed on the pipe he had used earlier and sprang to the platform. Following, the instructor took the stairs. 13M79 waited for the instructor to reach him and jumped straight up, caught a pipe, and dropped to land behind him and attacked. As 13M79 drove his foot into the back of the instructor’s knee, an assailant dropped from the ceiling to land on the same platform as 13M79. Before either of them could react, the assailant grabbed 13M79 by the arm and easily threw him into a wall. 13M79’s small body crumpled and he sank to the floor.
“It seems his agility has failed him.” Prima stood, his hopes had been raised and crushed. With the failure of the Halo, his impatience and frustration took over and he faced the chancellor. “This is a disappointment.” Prepared to leave, he met Hana’s confused stare. He couldn’t. Wouldn’t risk the life of his daughter. “I’ve seen enough.”
“Dr. Strallen, please the demonstration is not over,” Chancellor Hangar insisted.
“He stood,” Hana said through a breath.
Wearing a mask devoid of emotion, 13M79 took a fighting stance and studied the assailant and the instructor.
“It was validation. He had been knocked unconscious after hitting the wall. A simple injury. No doubt, it would have debilitated a human.”
Prima looked at his wife, her innocent eyes, and her belly, swollen with his unborn daughter. No one knew what was going to happen when the inoculations started. The vaccine was either going to heal the broken population that survived the Divergence or destroy what was left of them. No one knew how the territories were going to change. How humans were going to react. As a society they were desperate to have their civilization back and their way of life returned. The border checks between states would end and cities would return. No more extremists. No more deviants. Humans would live with freedom once again. If those humans were advanced, well, he would have done his job. With a flare of doubt and irrelevance, he took his seat beside his wife.
“The test continues,” Chancellor Hangar commented.
Before turning his attention back to the arena, Prima had to know definitively how long the Halo would live. “Is he immune to disease?”
“Yes.” Chancellor Hangar’s gaze held unsaid accusations.
“How long is the life span?” Prima pushed forward.
“13M79’s physical development will reach its conclusion at thirty years of age. Once this transition occurs, he will stop aging, his body will begin to retain strength, his senses will sharpen, and his regeneration capabilities will advance. He will be virtually immortal.”
“Immortal?” Prima asked.
“Of course,” Chancellor Hangar responded. “The demonstration continues.”
The assailant shot in and going for 13M79’s weakness, aimed for his head. He leaped backward, used the wall to boost himself, and hit the assailant in the chest sending them to the ground. Grabbing 13M79’s left arm, the assailant turned then twisted, the swift motion snapping 13M79’s elbow. He scrambled away from the assailant, his forearm dangling, his hand useless, and his lips parted from the pain. With his fingers wrapped around his wrist, he didn’t make a sound as he closed his eyes and inhaled. While 13M79 stood motionless, the assailant closed the distance.
“He has a broken arm. He is defenseless. Why is the adult still attacking him?” Hana asked. Every instinct associated with motherhood came alive and burned fear through her.
“This isn’t a training exercise. His choices determine his life. Dr. Strallen, you see the Halo hasn’t given up. He has calculated the risks and decided, in order to continue, he needs to heal his injuries.”
“It doesn’t prove anything,” Prima objected.
“Prima, his life is at risk. This is a demonstration and he could die.” Hana turned away from the training room to look at her husband. Cold. There was coldness in his chestnut eyes. And he was calculating something. He had been for months.
“Its life is at risk. Halos are created to risk their lives for the sake of others,” Prima replied. “That’s why we’re paying for it.”
It. The small boy wasn’t an it. Hana held Prima’s gaze for a breath, saw he was unwavering, and turned back to the training room. 13M79 stood on the top platform stalking the assailant. The wounded assailant. The roles had been reversed in seconds. He limped to the middle of the room attempting to get away from the Halo. Slumped against the wall, the instructor remained motionless. “He beat them all.”
“Not yet.” Prima saw the side of the instructor’s head had been crushed, scarlet and dull pink oozing from his fractured skull and through strands of blonde hair.
13M79 stayed at the edges of the room, keeping the assailant in the middle. Like corralling him, the Halo guided him toward a set of metal stairs. The assailant tripped backward when he met the first step and fell back. 13M79 leaped from the platform, landed in front of the assailant, and covering the distance jumped to straddle him. With his knees on the stair, 13M79 held the assailant’s head and with a quick jerk, slammed his skull into the edge of the steel stair. Twice. Blood splashed the steel, peppered the surrounding area, and spattered the floor.
13M79 released the assailant, crawled back, and stood for a minute staring at the body. When he faced the front of the training room, his eyes dimmed from black to emerald while the crimson dotting his cheeks and forehead glittered in the light.
“Was this the verification you were seeking, Dr. Strallen?” Chancellor Hangar asked.
Prima had visited every security corporation in the territory. He listened to their salesmen, and watched their half-hearted demonstrations. They were all disastrous. Their recruits couldn’t prove they would protect his daughter and pay the ultimate price with their life. His last hope before leaving California and the Constellation territory and traveling to Nevada was Omega Centauri. Was 13M79 going to be strong enough? “I’m paying for the best. I expect the best. If his failure results in my daughter’s death, how will I be compensated?” Prima asked. Besides Chancellor Hangar’s head being separated from his body.
“If a Halo fails, and we haven’t had a documented case, as we don’t tolerate failure, they are replaced.” Chancellor Hangar waved his hand across the window making it fog. 13M79 and the bodies faded and disappeared.
Hana shifted in her seat when her daughter began a barrage of uncomfortable kicks to her side. “What if he failed? What happens to the Halo? What would happen to 13M79?”
“Yes, what do you do with one if it fails?” Prima asked.
“Omega Centauri collects the unsuccessful Halo to study them. Once the analysis is complete, the Halo is turned lose. It serves as a warning to the others.”
With brows drawn in confusion, Prima asked, “To give him his freedom?”
“No. We have a compound where the others would watch 13M79 come to the understanding it was his fault his objective was destroyed. As if he had been the one to deliver the final blow. He would lose his reason to exist. Ultimately, he would destroy himself. That’s part of our guarantee.” Chancellor Hangar smiled, folded his hands, and met their gazes. “Would you like to take immediate possession?”
Prima looked at his wife. Immediate. “Chancellor Hangar, the sooner the better.”
HAPPY HALLOWEEN 🖤