Universe W-2020: Apex MERCs 4
March 5th, 2016
A Rose By Any Other Name
“Are you ready now, Daisy?”
“I am, Daddy,” she says, lowering to her knees. She outstretches her arms and places the back of her hands on the grass, exposing the soft flesh of her inner arms. May he be clean with the cut this cycle.
“Up, girl; and I’ve told you, you call me Father.” He scoffs, then, “And you wonder why I’m not consistent on the outletting.”
Daisy stands and brushes a strand of red from her eyes, tucks it behind her ear. “Father,” she asks, following him to the stump.
“Not having doubts, are we?”
Her breath cuts itself short. “No, just… why am I Daisy?”
“Say again?” he challenges, keeping his pace.
“You are to be called Father, but not Daddy; names must have meaning, then. Why am I Daisy?”
He stops, she follows suit. A gust blows through the trees.
Without turning around, “When I found you many cycles ago, you were laying in a bush of daisy flowers. So… I refer to you as such.” He begins walking. “I suspect you would have learned that, even had you not pried it from my mind.”
The Rose Bush
“And that’s all you remember, Miss Rose?”
“I told you,” bringing a hand down on the desk. The entire piece trembles and the desktop bows – particleboard, not real wood. What a sad world. “My name is Daisy.”
“And I told you, it was a bush of roses I found you in. I am not claiming to be your Daddy or your Father, but I suspect I understand what he may have meant by that last remark. Tell me, have you ever considered that perhaps you only remember what you do because that’s what you’re supposed to remember at this moment? So you can relay the information to whoever finds you?”
Rose rubs her arm – the thorns of the daisy stalks cut deep. “I… hadn’t, Doctor Torpol.”
“Edvard is fine,” he says, rubbing his chin. His babysoft chin. “Well, is that all you remember?”
“He led me to the tree stump, I climbed in, and then there was a brilliant flash of light, and suddenly I was in the dais–… the rose bush.” She thinks for a moment, eyes to the table. Then, “That’s all I have.”
“Very well. Well it’s clear you’re here for a reason; there are no random events. Not when it comes to things like this. You are some sort of message, dear… or perhaps a beacon. I’ll have to pursue it further, at the main facility.” He stands up, clips the pen to his clipboard. Buttons his labcoat. “Come. We’ll take the teleporter, we must go to New Manhattan at once.”
As she stands, Rose peers out the window to her right. They’ve been holding her in a crow’s nest overlooking an advanced labor camp of some sort, likely beneath the surface of the planet. When she landed the air was cool and crisp, but ever since she woke up in this cramped facility, the air’s been soft. Chewy, almost. Filtered and processed. And it smells of fragrant potpourri, as if designed to be olfactorily stimulating.
“Miss Rose!” with a stomp of his boot.
She turns and advances on the Doctor, stopping herself a foot short of manslaughter. Her hands release his neck. They both stare at each other with attention.
“Well, that was interesting. Now,” as he opens the door, “please step onto the large white disk.”
The large white disk the only thing she can see in the room, so on it she steps. There’s a flash of light, not quite brilliant but flashing all the same, and then the room is empty. Doctor Torpol then steps on, presses some buttons on the control panel, and has the sense to close his eyes before he’s zapped back to New Manhattan so he’s not blinded for twenty minutes when he gets there.
When the rods and cones of Rose’s eyes recover from the luminous overload, she sees an empty gray room. Metal walls, metal floor, metal ceiling, metal door. No doorknob.
The door slides open.
The Good Doctor walks in.
“Hello Miss Rose, I hope you had a safe trip.”
She says nothing.
“Wonderful. Please, come with me.”
She does as she’s told, but she doesn’t like it. She doesn’t like any of it. The attitude of this Doctor, the unrelenting gray hues of each and every identical holding room she’s transferred to, one after the next. Even the hallways are a constant grayscale, though at least these floors are carpeted. Why can’t she remember what happened at the tree stump?
They come to the end of the hallway. The door opens when the knob is turned and Rose is lead into an office occupying the entire corner of a building, or perhaps the entire floor; it’s hard to tell just from the entryway, but one thing is certain: the potpourri smell of the holding area is forty times more pleasurable than the trash stink coming off the young woman standing, hand in hand, with the older gentleman in the gray suit.
“Hi there!” the raggedy girl shouts, dropping her father’s hand. He pockets it and watches her walk. “My name’s Jennae, who are you?”
Rose doesn’t get a chance to answer before she’s wrapped in a blanket of alleyscent.
Then, “I’m… Rose.”
The Good Doctor nods. “Zhis is her, Prehsident Hymarc, Zir. Ouah numbah fieve, zer Rose. She has zhe instincts of a killer,” as he rubs his neck. The marks from her hands have faded, but their grip still holds tight. “But ozahvise, she must be explored.”
“A killer instinct,” says the gray man, this President Hymarc. President of what, the planet? “Interesting. As for my Jennae, well, first let me say, bravo with the anti-aging serum, Doctor Torpol.”
“YES!” Jennae shouts, damn near taking her shirt off. She then flashes The Good Doctor in a show of gratitude for turning her body forty years younger at the sip of a vial. Rose catches a peek and is duly impressed. “THANK YOU Doctor Torpol, you are a wizard with science. If only there were some way for me to show you my,” inhale, “gratitude.”
Doctor Torpol and Sean Hymarc both take a step in the same direction: east.
With her hand securely back in his, Sean says, “Yes, as I was saying, in addition to having successfully aged backwards, Jennae here is also equipped with… she has… er… how did you put it, darling?”
“An interior network of tubes that dispense a substance known as muscle maximization fluid. In small doses it makes the body feel warmth when it would usually feel pain. It also heals me, slowly, and in large doses, it expands my bone and muscle and all other bodily mass, really, and I kind of become a superhero. I can lift and throw anything with ease. I got it during one of my old snuff films, some old Russian scientis–”
“NEIN!” as Torpol strikes the nearest table with his right fist. His pinky finger gets numb off the impact. “Zhe Russians vill pay. Vedy vell; Prehsident Hymarc, shall I tell them, or shall you?”
“Well,” he starts, releasing Jennae’s hand. Catching the vibe, she runs next to Rose and stands by her shoulder. “You two girls are in something of a predicament… Jennae, in testing the anti-aging serum, you have voluntarily signed up for a ten-year enlistment in the Apex Corporation’s MERC program. You will receive a lengthy series of injections and you’ll be put through a rigorous training regimen. Yours will be specially tailored to help you master your muscle maximization fluid dispensers, now that they’re working again.
“You know, it’s sorta funny, when Ed originally brought me the blueprints for the MERC program, he buttered me up with the anti-aging serum. And you know what else? He said, if I could ever track you down and get you to sign, Jennae, that you would be the first enlister. That he could make you live forever, so we could be together for just as long. And now look, you’re here. My Jennae, my movie star.”
Jenni doesn’t feel so hot all of the sudden. She tries to speak, but the words just aren’t there. She’s a mouse in a trap, and the iron’s fallen.
“As for you, Rose,” Hymarc continues. “You will be enlisted into this program as well. We’re not sure who you are or where you were before you woke up in one of our garden rooms, but you can rest easy knowing that you will be absolutely safe with us. You have a killer instinct, the Doctor said; that will be quite useful in your new line of work.”
“My new line of work?” Rose asks. She’s just landed today and her receivers pull this nonsense?
“Yes, your new line of work; congratulations, girls, you’re going to be mercenaries.”
The Apex Corporation
The Apex Corporation is founded in 2009 by the world-renowned marine biologist Don Hymarc and his aspiring son, Sean.
In 2010, The Apex Corporation purchases the failed Wally D. Josh Corporation and inadvertently takes over the fragrance industry all in a gambit to raise funds for a side project.
In 2011, Sean Hymarc meets Doctor Edvard Torpol, head of the WDJ unledgered science division.
By April of ‘12 the MERC program is complete, but lacks a first test subject.