The engineer was sat on a grey chair, hunched over a grey desk with drawers, at the side of the grey workshop. He was flocked by the now, lone mechanic, looking over his shoulder at the fire-damaged blueprints, as the engineer traced them with a pencil on tracing paper. All of the four tables and chairs, that weren't bolted to the floor in four rows, which faced the door, were shoved to the right side of the room, clearing the left side to simply house the empty carcass of what was the containment of the Type III Prototype Time Machine. Born from a theoretical, throwaway design concept of one, long gone Gryaz physicist, whose budget and time was re-allocated towards war.
The engineer claimed, during his compulsory project interview, that he did not understand the use for a time machine at all. The past was the past, and Sýnnefa was his future.
Yet, Sýnnefa was obsessed, halting most other on-going projects, to create the time machine. The engineer was simply tasked with designing the mechanisms of the moving parts, removed from the nanobot supply delivery project, formerly used to transport supplies over difficult terrain, on cave ceilings and cliffsides, away from the Type 4 network covered zones in the wilderness, to prevent hacking.
The engineer had watched the actual time machine being moved to the main research hall, just across the corridor, accessible visibly only by the guards, escorting all personnel in and out, always watching over the shoulders of the workers.
All of the four computers at the back of the workroom room were taken up by a systems programmer, who had his own copy of the blueprints, adjusting the brightness, and contrast to reveal more details to copy down later, his screens visible to the two guards stood at the door, watching. There was a security camera and microphone, placed on the ceiling at the centre of the room, watching all of them.
The mechanic occasionally prodded the engineer whenever he had a question, before waiting a few seconds and mumbling it out. The systems programmer preferred to demand answers instead, not looking away from his screen, and without standing up. Nonwork-related speech between the scientists, during work hours, resulted in solitary confinement, and the three had learned their lesson.
The engineer spied the grey clock above the door, where two guards were stood, without lifting his head, pencil still moving. He had ten minutes left, before 20:00, curfew. The programmer and mechanic were both younger than the engineer, with matching, glazed, hazel eyes, sighing now and fidgeting, their ID badges hanging from the pockets of their uniform, on display, able to see them at all times, just in case. The guards stood still, unmoving.
When the shift was over, the drawers under the desks, ready and waiting to store all the paperwork and small parts, were to be filled with the blueprints, the tracing paper, and the pencils. The workshop would be locked up at curfew, and only the guards and cleaners were allowed back in, all the scientists in their individual, identical, grey rooms, unlocked by their ID cards, carried round as a symbol of loyalty and acceptance of the empire and their 'employment'.
Punishment for losing one's ID card was isolation, and the details of the card- text, geometric code, and all- tattooed onto the skin of the transgressor, if they unable to locate it before a guard lost their patience, tired of escorting the desperate worker from location to location in a mostly fruitless search. The facility was seemingly unwilling to issue another, and the three had learnt this the hardest way.
The engineer needed to lose his ID card.
He eyed the grey clock next to the door, where two guards were stood, without lifting his head, pencil still moving. He had ten minutes left, before 20:00, curfew. The programmer and mechanic, both younger than the engineer, and with matching, glazed over, hazel eyes, fidgeted behind the engineer, sighing now and again, and prodding the engineer's shoulder whenever they had a question, which they mumbled out after a few seconds every time.
The layout of the room had been changed eight months ago, and the engineer had never been so thankful for it. He thanked, the younger mechanic on his right, for being the one to suggest the change, in his mind.
It was time.
The engineer coughed into his left elbow, and his twin shadows jumped away. One of the guards jumped up to move at him, before the engineer put his left hand up, right hand, having released the pencil, to reach into his chest, and grab his ID card. He moved his right hand up, making to massage his throat, as the software developer grabbed the almost empty cannister of water, to pass to the engineer.
"My throat was just a bit dry," he attempted to explain, balling his right hand up, over his chest, pushing the ID card down his sleeve.
The guard relaxed back into his original position. "You've had a persistent cough for three weeks now, due to, what you claim, a drier throat. Would you like to access mental health therapy?" the other guard offered. He hadn't moved at all the entire time. The programmer and the mechanic flinched, remembering, the engineer looking down once more. He had a soft voice and seemed far more relaxed than the other guard. The engineer could almost picture the sadistic smile under his helmet, and a long forgotten face, replaced by the now, ever present vision of the dead comrade from the library.
He picked up his pencil and continued tracing, hoping that the outline wasn't visible through his sleeve.
"No, thank you. It will pass," the engineer replied, voice wobbling as he finished speaking. His heart was racing. He didn't think that he was even going to be able to finish working, let alone act normal, with his ID card in his sleeve. He kept going, throat suddenly too dry.
The engineer drank some of the offered water with his left hand, it tasted like vomit, and felt thick and acidic in his throat. Everything tasted like vomit to him now, even the tasteless grey mush he had for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Every time, the engineer went to sleep, he saw his dead comrade, with his eyes wide open, image burned into his retinas. There were five minutes left until curfew, ID card resting heavy in his sleeve, hands sticky.
"Any final questions, you two?" the engineer asked, attempting to place as much authority into his voice, barely keeping himself from gasping out the words, stomach rolling. What he wouldn't do for fresh air? What he was doing now for fresh air. The engineer almost choked.
The two shadows scrambled back, glanced at each other as he pulled himself up, eye brows furrowing. The engineer ignored them, as he always did now. Those two never had any questions.
The draw was opened. The pencil was placed in first. The tracing paper was rolled up, and placed in next, alongside the pencil. The engineer, when going to roll up the damaged blue print, placed his right arm horizontal, dropping the ID card, rolling it up immediately into the paper, placing it alongside the tracing paper.
He did it.
He had done it. He had knowingly committed treason, punishment death. The engineer felt moments away from crying. Phase one of his plan was complete. Nights in the throes of insomnia were starting to come into fruition. The engineer remembered the comrade, dead, outside the library. He had discussed a protest, and was beaten, and killed. The engineer remembered the missing mechanic from their quartet. He had lost his ID card. He had his details inked into his arm. He had taken the therapy request. And he was never seen again.
He shut the drawer, hoping that he didn't do so too quickly, sweating under his collar, and looked towards the guards, feeling that familiar heat at the back of his neck, and walked towards the sadistic guard, bowing his neck down as he was led out into the grey corridors, leading the system programmer and the mechanic, behind him, all in single file towards the west block rooms.
The engineer closed his eyes, and listened to the guard footsteps around him, listening for when the rhythmic marching would change. The doors they walked through in their line, were silent.
He began to hear a new march. A second beat. A second rhythm.
The engineer did not know where it came from, but it was undeniably there. He stepped out of beat of it, walking along at a pace, matching neither, confused. He could not glance behind him to see his two shadows, but could only look forward towards the Sýnnefa guards, and their grey uniforms.
Lights from nowhere were beginning to flash, and he heard screams echo in his mind.
He would get his revenge. He would shed his identification code of Gryaz E-009, and he would be called by his actual name. His real name: Red_Two.
Every night at 20:00, the same two guards waited at the west block dorms to scan the same ID cards to allow the same individual prisoners into their identical rooms for the night. They would then patrol the area until midnight, taking the first shift.The engineer looked at his shoes as he walked, right hand in his pocket, before widening his eyes, freezing. He used his left hand to check his other pocket and found nothing, swallowing back nothing, throat dry. He checked the pockets of his trousers and found nothing again, shaking and sweating. The guard, hand stretched out, ready to take his ID card, stood, impassively, shoulders relaxed.The other guard was sharp, extremely angular, and had a long, stretched neck, bulging with nerves, and veins. He towered over the engineer, forcing him to gaze into the abyss of the black visor, stark against the vision of greys which made up the walls, floors, and uniforms of all the people."Could you confirm your identity?"
The sky was an awesome blue, from this view.It was a giant canvas of solid, crystal azure, the grand beginning for the masterpiece, made by God's hand. All for Red_Two to gaze upon at, and weep.The clouds above were rolling. They were a pure, angelic white, with the smallest of grey shadows, reaching down towards him, bordered by, and held together by, a shining silver. They bloomed high up, and so far away, crafted into dragons, into trumpets, into turtles, and into halos. They carried so much free water, ready to burst like one of those fabled grapes, and allow those crystal droplets to fall to earth like diamonds.Heaven was up there, as a garden of riches, glistening gold, and so, so bright. And so, so warm. The clouds framed it, like a spiral staircase, of which mortals like him could use to pull themselves up there, or maybe fly themselves up on that burning dragon. It could breathe fire, and warm him up in those cold, cold clouds. Would the water taste
When he awoke, Red_Two found himself shivering, laying down on his stomach, on a soft, albeit cold, bed. He didn't feel a blanket over him, and he could feel a cold breeze on his feet, but not his legs. Without opening his eyes, he slowly inched his right hand towards his torso. He felt the intersection of two lines of bandages. An engulfing warmth surrounded his hand, and moved it back to his side.He was alive. Red_Two blinked his eyes open slowly, looking down at his pillow."I know you're awake," an unknown voice rang, slightly high pitched, light and cheery, definitively male, and speaking in English."I'm awake," Red_Two replied, voice slightly raspy, turning his head towards the right, in direction of the voice. He was on a bed with white pillows and sheets, with a bedside cabinet and chair next to him.On that chair was a man with an average build, matching his own, in a lilac shirt and dark blue trousers - part of a matching suit with the shiny,
The bedframe was grey."Oh,"Red_Two stopped moving. He stopped breathing.He was in Sýnnefa. In the past. Back when it was a small island.The bedframe was grey.He could still carry out his revenge. He could kill all the people on the island and prevent the future of happening. He could save Gryaz. He could save his mother and father. He could save the dead man in the library, and the second mechanic. He could save everybody. He could stop all the deaths from happening, and stop the gorge from being destroyed. He could save those deferent, purple mountains from being levelled. All he had to do was kill everybody.The bedframe was grey.But he couldn't kill. He couldn't hurt. And he didn't want to hurt the ocean-eyed man, the man he was preparing to die in the arms of, after waxing beauty about his eyes. He had a crush, didn't he.The bedframe was grey.The bedframe was starting to go black. The whole world was g
"Should I kill you?" echoed Red_Two's hollow voice, as Emmet strolled the room with breakfast, balancing a tray of two porridge bowls and spoons on one arm. Despite the entire night of tranquiliser induced sleep, Red_Two looked exhausted, pulling himself out of the blanket shroud he had made himself, like life itself was a taxing effort.Emmet laughed, then smiled brightly at him, shutting the door, filing away the comment to analyse later, during his mandatory nanobot project shift.He twirled around to place the tray on the table. "I didn't know what fruit you liked, so I put a little bit of everything in here, then added honey to sweeten the pot, and get your blood sugar levels up," Emmet explained cheerily, bouncing over to pull the curtains open, flicking open the window to let the morning sea breeze run amok.Red_Two shivered and pulled himself under the blanket hoping to shield himself from the cold wind, and the world. Emmet turned back to him and watche
"So, what do we do now?" Emmet asked, looking down at his half empty bowl.Red_Two struggled in his arms for a moment before looking up at him, still appearing somewhat dead. His eyes were still wet, red rimmed, and in pain.To Emmet, his eyes were like mercury, reflective and clear, and so different from the drab grey of the bedframe.His mouth moved to attempt making words before sealing shut. He had retreated into his mind, where Emmet couldn't follow him. Emmet tightened his arms, bringing Red_Two into a proper hug. He just wanted to learn all he could about him: his story, the world of the future, and what he was going to do in the past.But, if the world was that painful, Emmet wasn't sure if he even wanted to know.Away on their tiny island, cut off from the rest of the world , it was almost possible that they could ignore what was happening outside, but now, that wasn't possible. He placed his hand over Red_Two's head."Why do you wa
When Doctor Johnstone arrived to fix the damage of the hug, she first glared at Emmet, accusing and without saying a word. This time, Emmet was sure that she was going make good on her prior threats to put laxatives in his coffee.Doctor Johnstone had resewn the torn stitches on Red_Two's upper back and then tightened the bandages to the point of restricting his movement, pulled out his IV and had conducted her tests, silently, unreactive to any of the duo's attempts to stutter out apologies.The whole process took twenty minutes. Twenty long, awkward, silent minutes where not even the howling wind outside dared to disturb her.Red_Two looked down, despondent at upsetting her. She had moved him back to his original position whenever he shifted to alleviate the pain of his cramping legs, unrepenting, regardless of his apologetic expression.Emmet sat still on his chair, with his own legs crossed in solitude for the full twenty minutes, taking every opportu
Emmet Islington, much to Red_Two's surprise, turned out to be the facility director, and the head scientist, and had been neglecting his work: hours on the nanobot project that had been neglected; papers and reports had piled up on his desk, and the many spreadsheets on his computer needed to be reformatted with graphs, and summaries.He also had the best office on the island. A single door leading into a rectangular room with a set up of sofas and a coffee table in the centre, flanked by two walls chock full of books, and desk at the far end with a computer with a fancy swivel chair, the computer screen facing the final wall: a sheet of shining, translucent glass looking out over the cliffs of the island and directly into the sunset.Unfortunately for Emmet, swathes of piled papers had overtaken and drowned both his desk and coffee table in the three days of his ignored work."What've you been doing for so much work to be here?" Red_Two asked incredulously from