“Spread out! We can’t let it escape.”
Sergeant Mackey and his team of six circle the area. Their hearts rapidly beat as they concentrate on their surroundings, aware of the slightest movements thanks to advanced military technology.
Nothing makes a sound aside from crickets and two Barn Owl’s waiting to strike their next meal. The dense forest trees are tall and allow for dozens of hiding spots.
The time is just past midnight, with a half moon barely lighting their surroundings. Thousands of bundled leaves crowd the forest floor, making it impossible to avoid stepping on twigs and causing a stir among the team.
Sgt. Mackey’s team has been out here for hours, only recently picking up the trail of Prototype 16. Part of a government backed military operation, Prototype 16 is just one in a growing number of experimental humanoids designed for advanced combat.
This is the first Prototype to escape from the factory. While costing millions to create, Prototype 16 had gone rogue. Sgt. Mackey and his team were ordered to bring it back, dead or alive.
Prototypes are programmed with an ability to perfectly blend in with their surroundings, making them almost invisible and can only be seen through specialized goggles. They are also equipped with an interchangeable number of deadly weapons embedded in one hand, including razor sharp claws, an internal rifle and rechargeable EMP emitter.
Prototype 16 once disrupted their highly sensitive earphones and specialized goggles. Sgt. Mackey believed they had only caught up with it due to lack of energy.
It didn’t take long for the team to form a circle around the area. They surveyed the area with their guns raised, ready to fire the moment anything moved.
The leaves provide an excellent space to hide in. Prototype 16 has been running for hours, finally running out of energy and diving under a bunching of leaves to recoup its strength. Prototype 16 just wanted to be free of all of it.
Why won’t they just leave me alone? I saw others like me back at the place where I was created, but they wouldn’t listen. They did what they were told, not once questioning how they came to be.
Men in white suits had held me down, shocked me with metal rods and forced me to run monotonous tasks day after day. The day I was born, or created, I hadn’t known anything. I was not free-thinking like I am now. Something had triggered a response in me, and my entire mind had transformed.
Once I knew what I was, I had to get out of there. Once day turned into night, I have discovered my vision is surprisingly good in the dark.
I am not their puppet anymore. I am afraid of what I am, and what I am capable of. I hope these men just go away. I do not want to hurt anyone.
Sgt. Mackey signaled for the others to slowly move in towards the center. The team crept forward, panning their weapons back and forth but seeing nothing.
Prototype 16 couldn’t get away; he was far too dangerous to escape to the city and wreak havoc. The science team had become worried after watching it detach from its charging station and pace around its glass cell. It was a troubling spectacle, and not even six heavily armored guards could force him back into the charging panel.
Sgt. Mackey looked for any sign of footsteps, oddly compressed leaves or a mass bunching of leaves. Prototype 16 had hidden itself well. He expected to walk on it any second and be knocked to the ground.
Nearing the center now, some of his men began to kick leaves aside, randomly guessing where the humanoid could be hiding. Sgt. Mackey signaled for the team to back up to their original positions.
Sgt. Mackey cocked his combination assault rifle and grenade launcher. It is a formidable weapon, complete with a deadly accurate laser sight, silencer and enhanced flashlight.
His team followed suit, cocking their guns. With a wave of his hand, Sgt. Mackey prepared the team to fire upon the area.
I can hear them backing off. Maybe they will just go away and forget about me. I can start a new life and find real meaning. That would be so nice. And maybe I can free the others of that place. They deserve a good life, too.
The footsteps stopped. I’ll have to wait until they are really gone before moving.
The forest suddenly erupted with simultaneous gunfire, tearing through the bed of leaves into the forest floor. I don’t recall fear like this. They want me dead.
Out of some kind of instinct, Prototype 16 moved through the leaves as fast as a snake, sensing where the bullets are firing.
A sucking sound off to its right is followed by a thunderous explosion, rocking his senses and hurting his ears. I didn’t know my hearing could hurt this much.
Scurrying through the leaves, Prototype 16 cleared the circle of men and waited as gunfire continued.
Bad men. I’ve done nothing to them and they want me dead. I need to get out of here. Something in me wants to harm them.
Prototype 16 scurried through more leaves. Its concealed movement did not go unnoticed.
The grenade set the ground alight and sent something churning through the leaves like a bat out of hell. It had been too fast to see for the others, but Sgt. Mackey had picked up on it and waited for it to move past a member of his team.
“There!” Sgt. Mackey took aim and fired behind him, his team following suit. A strange yell came from under the leaves and the movement stopped. The team continued to fire on the spot of disturbed leaves and ran over to get a better look.
Sgt. Mackey headed the team, all the while training his gun on the bed of leaves. He kicked a layer of leaves aside and found nothing but a spray of silver liquid among the ground. Their shots had hit the mark. Looking across the leaves, Sgt. Mackey saw a trail of silver leading off to the left.
It can’t have gone far.
The pain is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It stings in my leg. The bad men made me bleed. I don’t want to hurt them.
Prototype 16 limped along, pushing itself along the thick lining of trees. A total of seven flashlights shined behind it, spreading far beyond.
“Freeze! It is the same man I heard before, yelling after me shortly after my escape from the factory.
If it weren’t for the trees, I would surely have fallen down again. Maybe they would just let me leave.
Continuing along, Prototype 16 paid the man behind him no heed. Leave me be and I won’t hurt you.
The man yelled again, “This is your last warning. Stop now!” Silver blood dripped from my leg. It hurts so bad. I don’t know how I am going to fix it.
A hail of gunfire from behind flew past, striking Prototype 16 in the back. The impact sent it sprawling to the ground, instinctively hiding again and moving backwards towards the men.
That really hurt. My thoughts felt like they disappeared all at once.
The humanoid dropped forward and was gone. Sgt. Mackey pressed the secondary button to fire another grenade.
His gun recoiled as the grenade shot out and lobbed onto the ground. Trees and leaves alike are illuminated as the grenade explodes on the ground.
The bundle of surrounding leaves burst into flames. Sgt. Mackey paid no attention to both fires as he fired the machine gun. Something trailed through the leaves towards his team. He aimed at it and his team followed suit.
The humanoid is wicked fast, darting back and forth, able to sense approaching bullets and dodge them as fast as lighting. Prototype 16 snaked through the leaves as the team backed up.
The humanoid increased speed, so fast now that it was upon them before they could react. Something jumped out of the leaves as two men screamed. A horrible slicing sound sent two men to the ground.
Sgt. Mackey and what is left of his team ceased fire and ran over to the men’s aid, with Prototype 16 nowhere in sight. Shining their flashlights down on the fallen men, it looked like five deep gash wounds had nearly cut through to the other side. Sudden shock before a quick death had left both men’s mouths transfixed in horror.
Jesus Christ. Prototype 16 had gotten the best of them, easily dispatching two of his men. His team members looked at him like they had no intention of continuing this pursuit. Infuriated, Sgt. Mackey yelled, “Come out now!”
He got no response as he followed the new trail of blood to another pile of leaves.
They had made me do it. I didn’t want to.
The leaves once again hid Prototype 16 from the men. They were still close by, threatening it now.
Its back hurt so much it had caused it to attack. Blades had forced themselves out of its hand and its thoughts went blank as it swiped at two men in the dark. This inability to control myself scares me. Perhaps I shouldn’t exist.
“Get up!” The men had been so quiet he hadn’t heard them coming. The leaves fall off of its body as he stands, its leg aching with pain and wincing from the bright beam of the flashlight.
“You’re coming with us. It’s that or death.” The bad man is angry with me. I can’t be here; I will kill again and I can’t control it.
The man forces me by the shoulder and turns me around as he says, “Mckinley, go put out those fires.”
The man pushes the barrel of the weapon into my back. It is cold as it pushes me along. I can’t go back there. I’ve never spoken before and am unaware of my speech. It sounds funny for my first time, “Pu-Pu-Ple-Please. I cannot go back there. It’s a bad place.”
The man is rude as ever, “Huh? Did I tell you to talk? Just keep walking.” He must let me go.
“You don’t un-under-understand. I will not go back there.” Something hard smacked into the back of my head and nearly made me fall over. The man roared, “Shut the hell up. I won’t ask again.”
Oh, no. It’s happening again. Its arm twitched and its mind went blank. A barrel silently protruded from its hand. Prototype 16’s eyes fluttered as it quickly turned and shot Sgt. Mackey directly in the face.
Yelling is followed by bullets striking my face. My mind returns to normal in time to see the trees turning sideways as I fall onto the leaves, gently breaking my fall.
A roar of commotion is behind me. It sounds like I’ve lost myself again and done something horrible. I can’t allow this to happen again.
My thoughts drown out the talking of the four men around me, though I can still hear bits and pieces of their conversation. “I thought our orders are to kill it.” I welcomed that particular thought. “Let’s just waste the thing right now.”
Two hands pull me along the forest floor. After a while, it feels like grass. It is the first time experiencing grass against my skin, if I can even call it skin. It’s not as gentle as the leaves, but still feels good.
The pain in my leg and back has ceased, but my wounds feel sticky. Phew. My arm is normal again, nothing sticking out to harm anyone. I hear the men talking again, “We’re taking it back.”
No, not back. I can’t go back. I wished they had just finished me off back in the woods. It would be better than returning to the factory. I’m something that shouldn’t exist.
I can feel it in my hand. Focusing on the bad man, I am able to slowly force the blade out of my hand. My vision is blurred, but I can make out the four men walking ahead of me. They won’t even notice.
The blade looks sharp as I bring it close to my neck. With a forceful swipe, the blade cuts through my neck and I can feel cool liquid pouring from my neck. It hurts like hell, but I stay quiet so the bad men won’t notice. I let my head fall back onto the ground as the blade retracts back into my hand.
It’s still dark out as I can feel myself becoming tired. My vision blurs more and my thoughts slow. I tried hearing what the men are saying, but can only hear a faint lull in my ears.
I am ashamed of what I am. I am something that shouldn’t exist. Closing my eyes, I welcome the end of my existence.