When genetically altered humans calling themselves ‘improved’ broke off from the rest of the world and formed their own country ‘Burania’, the world feared them.
Originally designed to be more ruthless soldiers and compliant civilians, their emotions had been blocked, a stint surgically implanted into their brains during fetal development so they could no longer feel as normal humans could. This lack of emotion may have rid them of their empathy as was intended, but it also helped them unite together based on their joined traits of violet, gold, or silver irises and white-blonde hair.
Without their emotions they saw no need to discriminate against their own altered race, and that organization scared the countries from which they originated. They were too organized, too cunning, too uninfluenced by their emotions when making decisions, which made them even more lethal than intended.
Those still unaltered began calling themselves the ‘pure’, and believing the altered to be dangerous sought to destroy them. Groups abducted, tortured and killed altered out of hatred and fear.
The country’s governments did little to protect their creations, many of the pure in power believing their modification to be a mistake and applauded these acts of violence or were strictly silent about them. These acts of viciousness against the new genetically altered race grew so heinous that even with their emotions blocked the altered began to despise the unaltered. The improved segregated themselves from the pure and united against the countries that created them.
Hate between altered and unaltered built until the Buranians declared independence all around the world and created their own nation separated from the rest. Soon after forming their new country, the altered declared war on the world and thirty years later in a show of impressive endurance conquered every country. However, their complete control of the world was short before an uprising began. Small at first, then expanded as unaltered finally became as organized as Burania itself was.
Though the world was now ruled as a solitary nation, a full revolution had taken hold, a rebellion building and spreading through Burania. A terrorist group of freedom fighters against Burania calling themselves The Elite, was the first to have success against Burania, liberating a whole city and renaming it Fidere or ‘faith’ in Latin.
The Elite having been led by Buranian Eugene Feinstein, whose stint was fractured by a trauma labeling him as a ‘broken Buranian’, he was able to anticipate Burania’s every military move by thinking as he had when among them.
Since declaring the once known New York City a new nation, several more areas of the world suffered such well-controlled attacks that Burania was forced to surrender more territory.
Burania intended to bomb the city even with many of their own civilians inside, but as weapons of war were being gathered for just such a cause, The Elite implanted a video as a virus into their worldwide media network as collateral insurance.
The news network that broadcasted day and night and was watched by every Buranian would crash and play a message from The Elite on a loop unless it was reset every twenty-four hours. Burania knew this would cause some panic in their citizens and even more rebellion from the unaltered. More uncontrolled chaos would result.
Hope was already spreading; hope granting courage as the altered had never seen from the unaltered. Hope that made them all band together despite their differences, and unite against their common enemy.
That video could not be released under any circumstances, or Burania would be lost.
They had called Tristan from his base across the continent to come to the coast, where everything had gone to shit.
He was whom they called when things went terribly wrong, and things had indeed gone wrong. The beautiful gold and silver city, Burania’s pride and joy, one of the last cities to fall during the war, was now being called Fidere, and ruled by a traitor to his country: Eugene Feinstein.
The man had fallen far in Tristan’s opinion. From a decorated commander to a lowly traitor. It was one thing to be a broken Buranian, but to find empathy for the unaltered was one trait of the broken that Tristan had never understood.
Eugene Feinstein had not only managed to rally the unaltered despite his race, but also somehow managed to turn the allegiance of one of the most decorated generals of the Royal Guard, and encoded some video into the media. “A ticking time bomb,” Commander Krystyna had called it when she had summoned him.
He now waited, his robotic arm crossed with his original behind him, his pulse beating against the cold metal, for Commander Krystyna to greet him and show him this damning video that had this base in such a tizzy.
He could see the city from where he stood on the upper level of the base, watching it as if he expected those glorious buildings to burst into flames at any moment. It couldn’t stand long, not with altered and unaltered living together.
Peace could never be maintained between the two races.
“Commander Tristan,” Krystyna greeted him, standing just as erect, just as proud with her chin lifted and eyes coldly assessing him. She had never met him, but had certainly heard of him. His reputation tended to speak for itself. “Come in.”
He tipped his head to her as he stepped into her office. A courtesy he needn’t extend, in this instance they were not equals. He was there to clean up her mess, and the mess of Commander Elroy.
He didn’t need to ask to see the video, which was so damning to the Buranian government, Krystyna already had it up on the projector and when she pushed play, he watched emotionlessly. Watched the eyes as people flashed before him, both altered and unaltered working together, becoming a civilization, living in relative peace. It made him sick.
His cyber eye throbbed watching it, reminding him of the truth in the face of the lies the video told.
The video represented something impossible, but something many fought to obtain, nonetheless. Equality. Peace. Community. The video was just a giant lie, and Tristan didn’t believe it was as damning as Krystyna thought. Most Buranians wouldn’t even acknowledge such a video, because, like him, they knew unaltered were emotional monsters, and incapable of level thinking beyond their hate. Many knew firsthand how true that was, as he did.
He was debating the risks of just bombing the city and letting the video run its course, when Krystyna reported, “If we destroy them this video will play on a loop on our only international network. They reset the video every day, it’s on a timer and if we don’t allow them to reset the timer our network will be destroyed and this will be the only thing on television.”
Burania would be robbed of news, which many watched religiously to keep track of the rebellion. Though its progression wasn’t reported to civilians, the media helped keep the people at ease. Buranians were genetically altered to be incapable of panic but even Buranians would react poorly if the only thing on the news was this lie of a message. Many would think Burania had officially been overrun, taken over by the unaltered.
The unaltered would fight harder, attacking altered civilians, and so the altered would lose their ability to keep living their routine while the Royal Guard handled the resistance for them. Chaos is what they faced if this video destroyed their network. Tristan understood the threat now.
There was a smaller projection of a map of the world glowing against the wall next to the television. The parts of the world that had been seized by the unaltered filth were glowing in red, as if the rebellion itself were a burning infection spreading over Burania.
The rebellion had spread and gotten almost completely out of control, and though no one admitted it, Burania was losing. The unaltered seemed to rise from the sewers like rats, in numbers no one could ever have anticipated.
No matter how many Tristan himself ruthlessly executed, there were always more.
Burania may have been the biggest country, but each country that had existed before the war combined had Buranians outnumbered. The unaltereds’ downfall had been when they didn’t unite against Burania before the war. When they couldn’t get past their pride and prejudices, their ridiculous racism that those improved with genetic manipulation now lacked. They couldn’t unite against a common enemy and had lost everything for it. Now it seemed, somehow, they had united. All the ethnicities, all the cultures Burania couldn’t manage to squelch were fighting back in unison, and Burania was losing.
“What if we kill the network ourselves, and rebuild on another channel?” Tristan asked.
“It would take months. Months of dead airspace which could be almost as catastrophic. The network keeps everything contained and assures our people that everything is under control and as it should be. Plus, if The Elite general caught wind of it, there is no guarantee she wouldn’t implant a new virus without our knowledge on the new network. At least as it is we know how to maintain balance.”
“Before Lilliana betrayed us, she gave some information she’d gathered from her time undercover in Fidere. The Shadow made a mistake and let slip that his general was who implanted the video into the codes of our network, and according to Lilliana, he only has one person he calls ‘general’: a woman named Devon who drives that obscene diamond bot shaped like a dragon.”
Tristan considered that, his mind winding like the gears found in his eye and arm. “So capturing her will be our first objective. Then we will have to persuade her to keep resetting the timer as we build a new network, or just get her to revive the old one by removing this encrypted video.”
“Our experts say it can’t be removed. It’s imbedded with a self-destruct if anyone tries.”
“Your experts are just as much to blame for this mess as Eugene Feinstein himself,” Tristan accused deeply.
He knew the response cut at her by the way her gold eyes sharpened. “The only one on this base to blame, Commander, is in a holding cell awaiting execution.”
“Commander Elroy,” Tristan guessed.
“He has been given enough chances. I called you to take control of his fleet,” she said, and her tone made him bristle. It implied, since she was Elroy’s commanding officer, she would also be his.
Buranians may not be able to feel pesky emotions, but they certainly could be ambitious. Their feelings were few and far between with that stint implanted into their temporal lobes where emotion resided, which left their frontal lobes uninfluenced. They are motivated, driven, determined and dominating beings… but Tristan was dominated by no one.
He was who they called when something had gone wrong. He was their fixer. He was no one’s underling. “You called me to clean up a mess, so a mess I will clean and you, Commander, will stay out of my way.” He swept from the room then, and Commander Krystyna didn’t attempt to stop him though nothing she had to say would change what he knew: she was just as much to blame as Commander Elroy.
His first task in fixing this problem was to visit the former commander. He had had his titles stripped from him Tristan suspected, and been imprisoned below ground. All the bases were built and constructed the same, so he knew exactly where Elroy was being held. The base went deep below ground, but the prison on the lowest level with iron bars was no longer in use. Now they had a new level just above, an impenetrable prison, its cell bars that of electric energy so even a gentle touch sent a nasty shock through the body. Not enough to be lethal, but enough to stun. Wouldn’t want the prisoners escaping, even in death.
Escaping one of those cells was impossible. Three walls of solid bulletproof steel, and one of pure energy ready to immobilize all those who touched it. Just to be safe there was a camera in each cell, hanging out of reach in the corner so the guards could watch each prisoner do nothing all day.
There were more prisoners than Tristan expected. Mostly unaltered, he assumed, had been gathered for questioning. He doubted they had any useful information, and ignored them as he walked in front of their cells. Ignored their curses, their general stench of fear as they hurled nasty insults at him. Provoking was all they were capable of now. The only harm they could manage.
His robotic eye flashed red into his line of vision as it detected enemies nearby. They meant him harm, they always did, and the improved additions to his body could detect that. His mechanical instincts quieted when he spotted Elroy, however.
Tristan recognized him sitting somberly in his own cell. In each prison cell there was a cot, a chair, and a table bolted to the floor. His violet eyes watched Tristan approach, calmly assessing him as Tristan punched in the code to deactivate the electric current and step into the man’s prison.
Elroy’s soft Buranian violet eyes met Tristan’s one good silver iris. Like most, Elroy avoided looking at his golden robotic eye, which inspected him from head to toe.
Typically he wouldn’t engage a prisoner so directly without backup, but he could sense no ill will coming off the man. He didn’t even rise from the chair and try to jump out of the cell when the current was down. Escape wasn’t on his mind, and neither was doing the superior officer harm.
“Commander,” Elroy greeted. He had surely been told of Tristan’s arrival; of who he was and what he had accomplished for Burania.
“I’m sure you know I am here to execute you and claim your position over your Royal Guard soldiers,” was Tristan’s cold response. He would have to be the one to deliver execution. In cases of enough incompetence for elimination to be absolute, the predecessor would be executed at the hands of their successor. Tristan had executed many generals and commanders who had made a mess, and half expected Elroy to protest so he added, “You’ve failed to crush your former comrade, Eugene Feinstein multiple times, and your first lieutenant general is a traitor, how can you expect Burania to let you live after your failures?”
To Elroy’s credit, he didn’t beg. He was Buranian, through and through. It was almost a shame to lose someone so invested in the cause, but orders were orders.
“I expect nothing but a quick death for me, and Lilliana when you encounter her in battle?”
Tristan gave a confirming nod, the best he could do for the former commander was give his word and an ounce of respect. His nod was to an equal. An exchange from commander to commander, though Elroy’s emotionless expression did not change.
“May the sun guide your steps then,” was all Elroy said when Tristan took Elroy’s head between his hands and wrenched it to the side.
Commander Tristan stood over the man’s body, watching those violet eyes glaze into nothingness. His gaze had always been dull, but now it lacked focus in death. Emotions were what gave irises that unaltered twinkle Tristan hated, proving Elroy was as far from a broken Buranian as they came. A real shame, indeed.
His mechanical eye alerted him of a presence just before one of the soldiers gathering behind him spoke. “Sir?”
He looked over his left shoulder, watching some of them squirm as the golden gears twisting in his robotic eye gleamed in the light of the electric currents all around them. Most didn’t react, but those who did he would have to keep a close eye on. Given the circumstances of who led the rebellion, he couldn’t trust any of the Buranians before him. The only surety he had was of his own resolve.
“What are your orders, Sir?”
Slowly he turned to all of them, his mechanical eye scanning over each of the five soldiers who stood before him. The five who had been directly below Commander Elroy, and each with soldiers of their own. They were there to carry out his every order, and none of their Buranian eyes even flickered to Elroy’s body in lingering loyalty. They were his now, and he intended to use them.
“Commander Elroy may be gone but the plan is still the same. We believe this General Devon is the head of the snake, and the heart of their media sabotage and other technological warfare. We will take her into custody and force her to disarm the video she encoded into the news network so we can bomb the city and rid ourselves of this little rebellion once and for all.”
“How will we know which one she is?”
“That’s the easy part. She drives the diamond dragon bot.”