lvii. a life for a life

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Lvii

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Lvii. A LIFE FOR A LIFE

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN I'M DYING?" Ian whispers, his breath now cool against the echo of the room. He tugs up his brown jacket so it wraps against his skin. The anger in his voice only barely covers the fear underneath. He was only sixteen. How could this man know he was dying? What right did he have to say that?

David's gaze doesn't waver; it's calm, as if this was rehearsed earlier. "My daughter was impacted in utero by the drug. It was only after she was born that you were... also experimented on. You're older than her. The entirety of your DNA wasn't changed."

"That's impossible. My parents wouldn't let that happen."

David suddenly looks away. His voice cracks now, the once strong exterior breaking down. "It was only after your parents were killed that Director Patrikson started using you. He combined my cure with other solutions... ones that somehow strengthened you. It was only recently that I found out. The effects of your strength are going to wear you out—make you weak from the inside—"

"—You're trying to manipulate me."

Ian narrows his eyes. He felt fine. He was young, healthy. There was no way something like this was possible. He wanted nothing more than to kill the man in front of him right now for daring to suggest weakness.

But then again, David did know about his strength.

"I'm sorry, Ian," the prisoner croaks. "I didn't know the Director used it on you. I studied the effects recently and based on my predictions—you have only a couple of years."

"You did this to me," Ian spits, green eyes flaring. "I should just kill you... all of you..."

The man doesn't protest. Ian felt as though the one purpose of his existence—his strength, his ability to protect his brother, his vitality—had just been stripped by this stranger and goddamn agency. He'd been tortured for as long as he could remember. Every day. Fifteen hours. A tedious wearing of his sense of purpose. This entire time, he bared it all because thought he was a gift to a greater cause, a martyr, when really, he was just being sacrificed. A sheep being sent to slaughter.

All because of this prisoner's goddamn mistake.

"I deserve to die," David affirms. "Who knows how many people were affected by my... solution. I was blinded by Patrikson."

"You weren't fucking blinded," Ian shouts, pummeling a dent in the stone walls. "You were infatuated with the power, the curiosity, and you were willingly blind. What the shit did you think they were going to do with your cure?"

David doesn't refuse. He hangs his head with shame. Dust settles from the air to the damp floors. A moment's silence passes. Ian says, this time much softer, pleading, "How much time do I have?"

The prisoner hesitates. "Around five or six years, I'm afraid."

The training Ian learned so much from finally re-enters his consciousness. Twenty-one. Twenty-two if he's lucky. That's when he would die.

It's then that Ian puts the dangerous pieces of the puzzle together. David, the creator, must know how to fix it. How to heal him. "What can be done?"

"Nothing. I'm sorry."

Ian notices how he swallows after saying nothing. While inconspicuous on the surface, Ian had spent long enough around liars to spot them. He's trying to protect his daughter.

It's David who breaks first. "Don't. I can give you all the research I have. Just stay away from her."

A stone-faced Ian rises from his spot. "It has to be done. I have to find her—"

The daughter who, when she was younger, was infused with the only successful cure.

"—because your mistake has sentenced me—"

He has to find her.

"—all of you—"

Then they have to destroy the agency.

Something finally snapped inside of him. Maybe it was the years of waterboarding to optimize his strength, the deprivation of food and solitary confinement just to see how long he could last, or the threatening of his brother, but he was finished. If he only had five years left, he'd make sure these bastards would pay.

"—Goodbye, David. A life for a life. I'll see you in hell."

~

That night, Ian waited until he heard the gunshot from his room to leave the barrack. He tried to reach his brother, to take him with him, but his bedroom was empty. Everything was taken. They moved Ace to a different location.

The mere thought of the Director stealing his brother sends a chill through him. He packs lightly: a bag with some food, money, and a 22 caliber. Then he heads over to the Director's home. If the Director stole his brother as leverage, then he would too.

Ian broke into his home that night and stole his two year old son, Caleb.

He made a promise to himself that day. To protect himself and those he loved at any cost necessary. As his search for his own cure, David's daughter, grew, so did his own infatuation and curiosity. He imagined this girl—his equal in every sense of genetic superiority—and he imagined kissing her, wrapping his hands around her waist.

Ian spiraled into an obsession with this unnamed girl. He'd search far and wide for her, and he was willing to risk everything. She was the only one he could love. They were made for one another.

She could save him. And they could become one. Together, they could finally exact revenge on those that scorned him.

Now that Octavia Snow sat before him, listening to his story, Ian saw perfection. He saw his own cure. Of course, he neglected the details that painted him negatively. Eventually, he'd tell his love, once she could understand. He didn't mention the last conversation between himself and her father, the fact Caleb was actually the Director's son, and the part about how he would have killed David with his own bare hands if the Director didn't kill him.

~

"SO MY FATHER WAS MURDERED BY THE CIA," Octavia repeats. The distrust for both sides is apparent on her face. Her distrust of Ian hurts him, and he wants nothing more than to kiss her, and to ensure that she is now safe.

"Yes, my darling."

For the first time, she doesn't protest to being called darling this time. The gears and calculations are too busy turning in her mind to figure out all the pieces. This causes a small smile to appear on his face.

He reaches out to put his hand against her face; she flinches but doesn't immediately turn away. "Please give me some time," Octavia states.

Ian wants to say no. He wants to demand no like he would with anyone else. But he reminds himself that she would warm up to him soon, that love was a slow process. So instead he retracts his hand. "Join me for dinner once you take some time."

"I would rather get hit by a flying—" Octavia stops herself. She runs a hand through her dark brown hair, which tugs at Ian, and her gaze flickers up. "Sorry... That was uncalled for. I'll be down soon."

Soon. The word rings out in Ian's ears. She would completely be his soon.

Sophie: "This is the last official chapter for book one. There will be a short author's note and explanation of where all the other characters are coming up. Thank you guys for being so patient and joining me on this journey <3!"

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