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Featured Excerpt:

Subject Seven

by James A. Moore
Ages 12 & up | Grades 6 & up

Warning!: This excerpt contains graphic language and content.

Prelude

Five years ago

Subject Seven

THE QUIET OF THE compound was almost complete. Three in the morning was always a time of silence. Almost everyone had gone home, and even the few that were still working tended to keep to themselves and whisper when they spoke. There was something about Subject Seven that made them want to be quiet.

Down in his cage, Subject Seven lay curled in a tight ball, his body aching from the latest batch of tests.

His skin was growing back. He'd almost healed, and the pain had become manageable. That was good because he was finished with the compound, whether or not his keepers knew it.

Seven had learned something new, you see, something that changed everything about his world. He had learned about his Other.

He opened his eyes and listened carefully, though there was almost nothing to hear. The steady beeping of his heart monitor was the only constant in his world. They seldom spoke to him.

When they did, it was to ask him if something hurt, or if they were feeling particularly ambitious, they'd ask him to explain the pain. He bared his teeth and heard his pulse rate increase on the monitor. What does it feel like to have your skin peeled back, Seven? Does it hurt when we touch your exposed nerves with these electric probes?

The room was ten feet wide, ten feet long, and seven feet high. Three cameras watched him. He couldn't even take a piss without someone watching and recording every action.

The Other could, of course. The Other was given everything he wanted. When he was hungry, he ate; when he was bored, he watched television—and he had people to talk to who were nice and gentle and gave him a soft bed to sleep in. Just thinking about the Other made him angry. He hated the Other even more than he hated the ones who tortured him. The Other lived in a wonderful world, far above the compound where Seven was made to live.

That was about to change.

One deep breath to calm himself. He heard his pulse slow down.

He closed his eyes, focused himself, and then pulled the sensor tabs from his flesh. He once heard someone say that his sensors had been inserted "subcutaneously." He'd asked what that word meant and the tech had pointed to his sensors and explained that meant they'd been implanted under his skin, just as they had been with all of the subjects.

Good to know. He liked learning new things.

He winced as the sensors ripped free and left bleeding wounds on his flesh. The heart monitor went crazy a second later, beeping frantically to let him know that his heart had stopped. He reached up and swatted the closest camera. It shattered and the broken glass from the lens drew still more blood.

The heart monitor stopped beeping when he used the heavy base to shatter the other two cameras. Then the sirens started sounding and ruined whatever rest anyone at the facility might have been getting.

His room was almost indestructible. So instead of trying to punch his way through the solid concrete above his head, he reached up and pulled himself into a corner of the ceiling, his arms and legs straining hard as he braced himself. His muscles shook but held as he stared down at the doorway and waited patiently.

Two minutes and seventeen seconds passed before Dirk opened the door. Dirk was massive. He was six feet, seven inches in height with the physique of a bodybuilder. He was one of the few who could subdue Subject Seven. Seven knew all about Dirk's combat training and time in the marines. Dirk liked to brag about what he'd accomplished in his life, especially when he was dragging Seven back to his room after the latest batch of experiments, before the sedatives wore off.

Sometimes, just to make sure that Seven knew who was in charge, he'd punch Seven in the stomach or slam his "riot stick" across Seven's temple and drop him to his knees. He always told Seven why, too. He'd look right at Seven, shake his head and smile and say, "That's just to let you know who the boss is, you little shit."

Seven waited until Dirk looked around the room and then raised his eyes toward the ceiling before he dropped down on top of him. Dirk was wearing his security outfit and his hand was reaching for the rubber-coated metal club he called his "riot stick" when Seven landed.

"You lost your mind, kid? What the hell are you doing?" Dirk's voice was not as calm as it usually was. He sounded like he wanted to scream, wanted to cry, but was trying to hide his fear.

Sometimes Seven talked to his captors, but never to Dirk. He didn't feel any reason to change that agenda now. Instead he opened his mouth and lunged, his teeth tearing into the meat of Dirk's neck and shoulder.

The guard screamed then, a loud, shrill wail of panic almost as braying as the alarm sirens that were still shrieking away.

Dirk pulled his club free from the holster. Seven reached out, capturing the hand and the club alike. He pulled as hard as he could and Dirk resisted, fought back until Seven bit down again, this time on his face.

The blood was hot, salty and thick as it spilled into his mouth and painted a beard over his lower face. Dirk screamed again and thrashed under him, and for the first time in his life, Seven smiled.

Dirk let go of the club to cover his wounded neck and face with his hands. It was instinct, really, an attempt to stop the pain from getting any worse. Seven snorted past the blood covering his mouth and nose—the closest he'd ever come to laughter—and swung the club around in a brutal arc. His first blow cracked the side of Dirk's skull like an egg. The second swing spilled out what passed for a yolk in Dirk's shell.

Dirk stopped moving, stopped screaming, stopped living.



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