CHAPTER SIXTEEN: REMINISCENCE - THE EXTRACTION
The twelve-year-old Krystal sat in a fancy dining area that looked like a nice restaurant. Everyone who had been in the conference room during her introduction was there, singing happy birthday as Charlie set a cake in front of Krystal with twelve burning candles.
“Make a wish, Kristy!” Charlie told her. Krystal took a deep breath, then blew out all of the candles at once. Everyone clapped cheerfully as Krystal smiled broadly.
“Alright, everyone,” Alexandria said loudly, “everyone grab a plate and get some cake and ice cream!”
Charlie served a large piece of cake to Krystal as Thomas came over with a tub of ice cream. He scooped out a big serving and heaped it on Krystal’s plate. The others were all waiting in line with their plates and forks, and Charlie and Thomas served them all one by one.
Before everyone had settled down and began eating, Krystal had eaten everything and was getting seconds. When she finished, Alexandria and a few other people carried Krystal’s presents to her. Krystal saw them and let out a small squeal of joy.
“Oh, this is great!” she said happily. The entire room watched as she picked up the one on top. “This one’s from Lenny.” she announced, tearing open the wrapper and revealing a sketchpad and a box of crayons. “I love it!” she said. “Thanks, Lenny! You know how much I love to make pictures!”
“No problem,” said an elderly man sitting near the back.
The next present Krystal unwrapped was a calendar. As she flipped through the pages, her eyes scanned the pictures of the nice sports cars.
“It’s a sports car calendar!” she said excitedly. “I love fast cars. Do you think I’ll be able to drive one of the Zoe cars someday?”
“Those are SP weapons we made,” Charlie told her. “They aren’t for joyriding, but I’ll see what I can do.”
After going through the entire pile, Krystal finally made it to the last one. She picked it up and put it on the table, reading the label.
“This is from you guys,” she said, grinning at Charlie, Thomas, and Alexandria.
“Hope you like it,” Charlie told her with a smile.
Krystal ripped it open quickly. Inside, she found something that she never expected, but was altogether happy to get.
“It’s a video game system,” said Thomas.
“You mean like in the arcade?” Krystal asked in amazement.
“Even better,” said Thomas. “You can play it on your TV, and you get hundreds of different games, not just the same one. Our arcade here at Base 15 is small, but I know how much you and Charlie like to go there.”
“Wow, guys, thanks!” Krystal got up and gave Charlie, Thomas, and Alexandria a hug. “I’ll be the best video game player ever.”
“Nothing but the best for our dear Kristy,” said Alexandria, rustling Krystal’s hair.
Krystal was sitting in the lounge, drawing a picture on her sketchpad. Alexandria was trying to find out the notations for the Darknae Sonata on the grand piano as Charlie was putting an entry in his book. Thomas walked over to him, looked over his shoulder, and chuckled.
“What’re you drawing the piano for?” he asked.
“I feel like it,” Charlie answered. “Kristy’s drawing it, too.”
“Really?” Thomas went to Krystal and looked at her crayon doodle of the piano. “Say, that’s pretty good. How come you have so much blood all over it?”
“Because of the song,” Krystal replied. “The song that Alexandria’s trying to figure out is bad, right? Doesn’t it kill people?”
“Hmm, true,” said Thomas.
“Yeah, I think I’ll put blood on mine too,” said Charlie. “I like that idea. Thanks, Kristy.”
“You guys are so violent,” said Alexandria. She played around with the piano some more. “I think I have it. Kristy, do you mind if I ask you if this is the song?”
“Go ahead,” said Krystal dismally. She hated to hear the song again, with all of its terrible memories tied to it. Alexandria began to play a beautiful song, and chills shot down Krystal’s spine. The hair on her neck stood straight up. “Stop,” she said shortly.
Alexandria instantly stopped playing and looked at Krystal.
“Is that the song?”
“That’s it,” Krystal replied dully.
“Are you okay?” Charlie asked, looking up from his book.
“Yeah,” she said, flipping the page of her sketchpad. She began to draw a picture of the moon as it sang. There was silence as Alexandria wrote the music for Darknae Sonata down on paper, Thomas flipped through the newspaper, and Krystal finished her drawing with two dead people under the moon. It made her heart sink, but it was oddly therapeutic to face her fears by drawing what she didn’t like.
“You know,” said Thomas, putting down his newspaper, “I was thinking —”
“Don’t start with that,” Alexandria interrupted quickly.
“We should just go ahead with it,” said Thomas. “I don’t see why not.”
“The risks are too great,” said Alexandria sternly. “Even though I see how it could be extremely beneficial, it could be extremely dangerous at the same time.”
“But you don’t know that,” Thomas argued. Krystal looked up, knowing that this conversation was about to lead to her. She’d heard it before.
“Extracting part of someone’s soul is inhuman,” Charlie told him. “Even if it’s just a small part.”
“But we need to study it more closely,” said Thomas. “The emptiness that Kristy feels from the loss of her parents may be a key to how Darknae works. This one experiment could tie together the key factors among all three projects: Darknae, Luminae, and Ars Animus. If we take out the damage created in Kristy’s soul and study it, then —”
“I said no!” Alexandria barked. “It may be just an emptiness, but it’s still part of her soul. Removing it could cause Kristy permanent damage! As far as we know, it could even kill her, so don’t even think about doing such a thing!” Alexandria snatched up her things and stormed out of the room, muttering curses to herself.
“You know,” said Charlie after Alexandria had left, “she’s right, Thomas. There’s no telling what that could do. We don’t even know if it’ll work.”
“You’re right,” said Thomas, looking at the newspaper on the table next to him. “But this could be groundbreaking for Project Ars Animus, which is the scientific study of souls. I mean, it was the prerequisite for Project Darknae and Project Luminae. One big discovery in the original research could rewrite so many things.”
“But it’s still dangerous,” Charlie told him, not looking away from his book.
“Hmm,” Thomas replied unenthusiastically, raising his eyebrows. He picked up his newspaper and resumed reading.
Shortly after, Alexandria came running back into the room, looking excited.
“Guys, come quick!” she said breathlessly. “They just caught something out in the desert!”
“What is it?” Thomas asked, standing up with Charlie.
“I don’t know,” Alexandria replied. “They said it’s nearly dead from the heat, and they’re bringing it back. C’mon, hurry!”
She whirled around as Charlie and Thomas hurried after her. Krystal put down her sketchpad and crayons and ran with them. They raced through the sector until Alexandria led them to a long, white hallway that resembled a hospital. At the end was a large, steel door that was tightly closed. Krystal was strictly forbidden to enter that room, and for a split second, thought that was the room they were heading to. However, they followed Alexandria into another room halfway down the hall. When they saw what Alexandria was excited about, all of them froze in shock.
“We finally got it in the containment chamber,” Lenny said to them. “It didn’t put up much of a fuss, since it was nearly dead, but we were inflicted with a weird and chilly pain every time we touched it.”
“What is that?” Thomas asked, awestruck at the creature floating inside the large, glass tube. “No, it can’t be ….”
It was a horse, no bigger than a pony. The fur was completely black, and two large wings protruded from its back and pressed against the glass. Massive talons extended from its hooves that resembled paws, and long fangs stuck out of its mouth, in which an air tube was inserted. Its eyes were closed, and, just as described, it looked nearly dead.
“Our equipment picked up a saturated concentration of pure Darknae from it,” a female scientist said from behind her computer desk.
“We believe,” said Lenny, “that we have captured Night Stallion.”
“Incredible,” Charlie whispered, staring at the demonic horse through the glass.
“Do you know what this means?” said Alexandria excitedly. “We have Darknae in our custody! Now we can study it to the fullest! Sorry, Thomas, but there’s no need for your asinine experiment with Krystal’s soul anymore.”
“Perhaps,” Thomas replied coolly, squinting his eyes at Alexandria.
“So,” said Krystal with a shudder, “is this what killed my parents?”
Everyone in the room turned and looked at her. They didn’t seem to realize that she was even in there with them.
“That’s correct,” said Charlie quietly.
Krystal didn’t say a word, but instead walked slowly up to the glass chamber that imprisoned Night Stallion. The cold, frightening energy that radiated from it swept through her. She stopped a few inches away, gazing at the creature that killed her parents six years ago on that cold, lonely winter night on Christmas Eve. Clenching her fists and gritting her teeth, an immeasurable hatred billowed from her heart as she glared at the creature of Darknae.
Krystal was in the dining area eating breakfast with Charlie, and Alexandria was having the same argument with Thomas.
“I don’t think it’s Darknae,” Thomas tried to explain. “It’s not even matching the readings of Luminae and Soulpower, not even close! Whatever energy radiated from the emptiness in her soul, it definitely isn’t anything that I’ve —”
“If it’s not Darknae,” Alexandria growled, “then it’s not our concern.”
“This is a new field of study!” Thomas told her impatiently. “It’s like the result of a chemical reaction, but not physical, and definitely undocumented. We have to find out exactly what it is, otherwise it’ll go unheard of!”
“Let it go unheard of, then!” Alexandria slammed her fork on the table, and it bounced and clinked against the plates. “Come on, Charlie! We have to help study Night Stallion’s brain waves.” She stood up so quickly that she knocked over her chair. Without picking it up, she marched out of the dining area. Charlie got up, pushed in his chair, and took off after her.
“Why is she so mad?” Krystal asked Thomas.
“She doesn’t understand my research,” he replied. He looked around the room, then lowered his voice almost to a whisper. “Say, why don’t we just go ahead and do it anyway? We don’t have to tell her.”
“But won’t she get mad?” Krystal asked.
“Not unless she finds out.” Thomas wiped off his mouth, then stood up. “Just think, you’ll be doing us all a big favor.”
“Really?” Krystal loved being a big help. “Okay, let’s go!”
She went with Thomas down the long hallways. Along the way, she beamed with the thought of helping out with something so important. Maybe Alexandria would finally realize that they were doing something good. They made it to the long hospital-like hallway that they were in the week before, passing by the room that contained Night Stallion. The door was shut, and the words “PROJECT DARKNAE: Specimen Containment Facility” were on the door. Krystal looked nervously at the door, knowing that Alexandria and Charlie were on the other side, and she had to keep what she was doing a secret.
“Here we are,” said Thomas, stopping in front of the steel door at the end of the hallway. It’s height and width were intimidating.
“I’m not allowed in there,” Krystal told him.
“Not without permission,” he said, taking out a keycard. The door had a pad for scanning fingerprints, but Thomas’s card appeared to bypass that when he swiped it. Unlike the other doors, this door hissed loudly as it cracked open, shooting out steam. Looking around, Thomas stepped inside, pulling Krystal in with him. He turned on the lights, then closed the door behind him.
The room looked a lot like an operation room on a spaceship. There was an operation table in the middle of the room, and a number of large and high-tech machines were all over the place. Wires were strung across the ceiling and along the floor and walls. Next to the operation table was a giant glass chamber identical to the one Night Stallion was being held in.
“Go and lie down on the table, Kristy,” said Thomas. “I’ll get everything ready for the experiment.”
Krystal eagerly climbed up onto the table and stretched out on it. Thomas began running the machinery and computers, filling the room with a dull, low humming sound. After a few minutes of setting up the equipment, he moved behind a control panel and began to move what looked like a large laser machine that hung down directly over Krystal, who watched it slowly point directly at her chest. Looking over, she noticed that a big tube was connected from the laser to the top of the glass chamber.
“There we go,” said Thomas. “This laser is called a Heartfire Cannon. Heartfire is an energy type used to do surgery on souls. It can distort time and space, and it can cause serious damage to someone’s soul if it’s not controlled. I’m going to extract the empty hole in your soul created from the death of your parents and your exposure to the moon’s lullaby. It’ll travel from the cannon through a tube and go into the containment chamber where I’ll be able to study it more closely.”
This made no sense to Krystal, who asked, “Why is it called Heartfire?”
“It’s just a name,” said Thomas. “Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Are you ready?”
“Ready,” said Krystal, who was so used to experiments that she didn’t feel the least bit nervous.
Thomas activated the laser, which shot a bright beam of violet light directly into Krystal’s chest. Her entire body began to glow like the sun as dizzying sensation poured over her, but there wasn’t any pain. The lights in the room dimmed as a tremendous amount of power was fed into the laser.
After a few seconds, there was a loud sucking noise as a bright glowing orb of whiteness came out of Krystal’s chest and traveled up the violet beam of light coming from the laser. The beam stopped when the sample of Krystal’s soul entered the laser and traveled through the tube. Thomas watched, transfixed on the glowing orb as it came out of the other end of the tube and entered the containment chamber. The water inside instantly fogged over and began to glow brightly with a deep violet color.
Thomas turned off all of the equipment and slowly made his way across the room to the glass chamber. A victorious smile spread across his face as he examined the glowing fog inside.
“I did it!” he whispered excitedly. “Kristy, look! It worked … Kristy?”
Krystal had sat up, and was staring straight ahead of her, wearing a completely blank and emotionless expression. At the sound of her name, she slowly turned her head to look at Thomas.
“Kristy? Are you feeling all right?”
Krystal slid off the table onto her feet, then straightened herself up.
“I’m fine,” she said timidly. “I’ll be in my room.” Her face was utterly expressionless, which was totally unlike her.
“Are you okay?” Thomas asked her. He felt as if he had just made a grave mistake. Maybe he should have listened to Alexandria. “I have to see how you feel first. You can’t just wander around after an experiment, you know that.”
“I don’t care.”
Krystal walked over to the door, opened it up, and without even looking back, stepped out. Thomas glanced at the glowing glass containment chamber, then hurried out of the room, making sure to turn off all the lights and shut down the unnecessary equipment.
“Kristy, are you sure you’re okay?” He stopped her a little down the hallway.
“I’m fine,” she repeated quietly, giving Thomas a weak smile.
“Look into my eyes,” Thomas told her. He looked directly into Krystal’s beautiful blue eyes, then realized with absolute horror that something had gone terribly wrong. It seemed as if she was looking straight through him instead of at him. He took a couple of steps back, observing Krystal’s behavior. She stared at him with no emotion on her face, standing like a statue, then gave another meager smile, turned around, then walked away.
“Oh God,” Thomas whispered to himself, putting his hands over his face. “What the hell have I done?”
He stared down at the floor, thinking about how Alexandria had argued with him, saying that his experiment would be dangerous. Thomas felt extremely guilty; his experiment had succeeded, but with the consequences he was warned about. He looked back up to see Krystal standing a few feet away, staring at him. The expression on her face made the hair on his neck stand on end. If looks could kill, he’d have been killed on the spot. She had a bloodthirsty look in her eyes and a deathly chilling grin.
“Kristy?” Thomas asked nervously. He took a few steps back.
“I want to kill you,” Krystal replied in a playful voice.
“Don’t say things like that.” Thomas backed away some more.
“I want to kill you,” Krystal repeated in the same childish voice. “I want to rip open your chest and eat your beating heart.”
Thomas backed up against the steel door leading into the restricted room. Krystal didn’t move, but continued to give him the same murderous smile. Without warning, she clapped her hands over her ears and began whining.
“Make the moon stop singing,” she whimpered. “It won’t stop singing!” Krystal staggered around the hall, still covering her ears. She started screaming, then fell to the floor in a fit of convulsions. Doors flew open as scientists rushed into the hall to see what was happening. Charlie and Alexandria were amongst them.
“Take her to the medical sector immediately!” Charlie ordered. He and a few others hurried over and picked her up, but she flailed her arms and legs, making it difficult to get a good hold on her.
After much struggling, Krystal was hauled quickly to the facility’s emergency room. The medics had to slam her body onto the operating table to tie her arms and legs down.
“Get away from me!” Krystal yelled. “Don’t touch me!”
“Bring the tranquilizers!” a doctor ordered. A nurse rushed over to the shelves and retrieved a tranquilizer needle. They had to hold her arm down to inject it safely into her bloodstream. A few more moments passed, and the tranquilizer had no effect.
“We need more!” the doctor shouted over Krystal’s screaming. The nursed fetched him another dose of tranquilizers. They attempted to inject her again, but she fought them back harder. Her arm slipped out of the strap and she slammed her left hand down on the tray of surgical tools, slicing a deep gash into her palm. As she flailed more, the blood from her hand splattered the medical personnel and the floor.
“No more tranquilizers! Please, no more! They burn! They eat me alive from the inside!”
Eventually, the medical team was able to subdue her and pump her full of enough tranquilizers to calm her down, but she remained conscious. Just as the doctors wiped off their foreheads, a loud explosion was heard echoing down the halls. A few of them took off to investigate, while the others stayed to watch over Krystal. Moments later, one of the medical assistants returned, extremely frightened and pale as a ghost.
“I-it’s the s-specimen from Project Darknae!” he sputtered. “It broke loose!”
Before anyone could react, there was a flash of blue fire, then Night Stallion came up from behind the assistant and dug its huge talons into his back. He let out a yell of pain as Night Stallion slammed him into a wall and ripped his back open, spurting blood everywhere. The horse leapt into the medical room and growled, exposing its sharp teeth, making all of the doctors and nurses cower in the corner.
Night Stallion saw Krystal on the table. She was full of tranquilizers and wasn’t moving much, leaving her completely defenseless as the demonic horse advanced closer to her. Charlie and Alexandria barged into the room and both charged at it, determined to protect Krystal with their lives.
The horse went berserk, slashing both of them at once. They collapsed, badly injured, and Night Stallion began to attack the medical personnel. How it attacked was very unlike an animal, but more akin to trained fighting and martial arts, using calculated strikes and elegant movements. Krystal, however, remained on the table, looking at the horse with almost no expression. With a burst of strength, she overrode the tranquilizers in her body, ripped off the restraints holding her down as if they were rubber bands, grabbed one of the surgical tools, and started using it to mindlessly cut herself just above her right eyebrow, contemplating the pain it caused while remembering the flavor of the fried chicken she had for dinner the night before.
As the remaining nurse cried in terror, Night Stallion directed its attention at Krystal. It had just detected some sort of energy fluctuation from the girl that was neither Soulpower nor Luminae.
Out of nowhere, Thomas burst into the room and snatched Krystal, then ran out. He slung her over his shoulder, then tore down the halls to the elevator. Explosions were heard from other parts of the facility as Night Stallion rampaged around, destroying everything it came into contact with, using its blue flames to freeze people, and expelling energy from its mouth with the force of a bomb at frequent intervals to eradicate walls, floors, and ceilings with ease. There was nothing in the laboratory’s reports about Night Stallion’s abilities to utilize Darknae in such cataclysmic ways, but it was too late to document any of it now.
Thomas got to the elevators, but knew that taking them would be a bad idea. If Night Stallion continued ripping the building apart, which it did so to a severely underestimated degree, it could damage the electrical system and they’d be stuck in the elevator shaft. Instead, he flew up the stairs one flight at a time, powered by adrenaline. More explosions and screaming could be heard behind him as he raced for the top floor.
The emergency alarm went off, adding to the tension building up inside Thomas. His lungs felt like they were going to explode if he kept running up the stairs, but he didn’t dare slow down. The last thing he wanted was Krystal to die.
At long last, they reached the top floor. Thomas burst out of the emergency exit onto the runway. Turning around, he saw others had already made it out of the building. Wasting no more time, Thomas hurried to the airplane hangar. Once inside, he set Krystal down and looked her straight in the face.
“I’ll have to get you out of here,” he choked, wiping the blood from Krystal’s face as a result of her self-inflicted injury. “You’ll be taken to a place somewhere in the Midwest, far away from this place.” His hands fumbled through his pockets, then he pulled out a device that resembled a pair of binoculars. “I’ll have to erase your memory of this place, for your own sake. When you get a new place to live, I’ll follow you and watch over you. We’ll have two of our top-model humanoid robots take care of you, and I’ll make sure you get a lot of cash.”
An explosion from outside interrupted him.
“I have a degree in the medical field and government influence, so I’ll be working at a hospital close to you. I’ll make sure you somehow find Charlie’s book to help inform you of all of this when the time comes. The Luminae infused in the book will make it easier to find. I’m also taking my experiment with.”
Thomas used his sleeve to dab the dripping sweat from his face as another explosion echoed.
“I’m so sorry for all of this.” He held the memory eraser in front of Krystal’s eyes. “Goodbye, Kristy.”
There was a bright flash of light.
The vision faded out and disappeared, leaving me bleeding next to the sidewalk, staring into the glowing red eyes of Night Stallion just before everything went black.