He woke up to the bright lights of the Citadel washing out his flawless complexion. Not this again. Sebastian had forgotten how unflattering it felt to live in Triumphia. Not only did he feel like a nobody, he was completely surrounded by nobodies. All of the soldiers looked like evil elves from his favorite childhood films, except they completely lacked personalities and had no taste for art or music. Sebastian wished he could use his Memory Maker on all of them, and give them a good healthy dose of happiness. Actually, if he was being honest, he wanted the mercenaries under his control so he could protect Heathrow Heights and prevent another ambush. If only the Zone Drones had worked. Then he wouldn’t be here.
Sebastian rolled over in his scratchy cot and looked at the gray wall, trying to shake off the haze of drugs still in his system. He was in a cell, that much was clear. Sebastian had tried to avoid this fate for over five years. He knew if Triumphia’s government seized him, they would do everything to make his life a living hell.
He remembered fighting his way through dozens of interviews in order to get the internship that defined his career. At first he had been thrilled and grateful for Triumphia’s generosity. They provided him cushy housing, great meals, fascinating work, and whatever amenities he required. He had even met members of the executive council, who showered him with praise for his scientific work. But Sebastian quickly realized he had no friends in Triumphia. All of the Hub employees were under a strange spell, as if working for the government was their only aim in life. Not to mention Sebastian hated the Citadel. He’d only been there once, but he remembered the intense LED lighting, the training regimens, the long hallways, and the dead eyes of the Malum soldiers. Sebastian had vowed to never return.
After only two weeks of research, Sebastian was feeling burned out. He’d worked fourteen or more hours a day, looking at brain scans and crafting research documents for his mentor. At their weekly check-in, he said he was feeling lonely and exhausted. His mentor replied, “You should visit the recovery room, they can help you out.” Sebastian had booked an appointment with the recovery room, a small oasis in the middle of the Hub decorated with beautiful potted plants and string lights. He’d walked in, took one look at the machine where they would hook him up and “reset” his brain, and walked out. It was weird. It was too weird.
Only then did Sebastian fall down a rabbit hole of realizations. He was researching memory, and the long term effects of experiments. There was a reason the executive council and the researchers all felt like cogs in the machine. They WERE the machine. And they would stop at nothing to make HIM part of the machine. This wasn’t an internship, this was a lifelong commitment. Sebastian was impressed with whoever had designed the whole system. He watched, listened, took notes, avoided his mentor, and then left the internship early, escaping with all of the information it took to design the Memory Maker and his new life.
It was all catching up to him now.
How would he escape this time? It would only be so long before they indoctrinated him into their brainwashed cult. Maybe they would torture him for a while, to punish him for stealing their technology. Maybe they would take him to the recovery room immediately. Maybe they would keep him in solitary for so long that he went insane. Or maybe they wanted to know about his new project. Sebastian would take that secret to the grave. If anyone deserved to achieve that level of total power and total security, it was him. He’d earned it.
Sebastian investigated his cell to see if there was any way he could escape on his own. No luck. It was a standard Citadel cell, with a small panel in the wall that allowed cold food to be delivered to prisoners twice a day. His stomach grumbled, and he flopped back onto his cot, worn out from any type of movement. The drugs returned for their last hurrah, forming a fuzzy blanket of sleep. As Sebastian sank back into darkness, he wished for a cup of coffee.