Due to spoilers, please click Read More after reading the previous chapters.
Chapter Seven: The Network
John awoke to bright sunlight. He turned his head to the side to see that the curtains had been drawn back and had flooded the room with natural light. For a moment he was disoriented from waking up in a strange place. Then he remembered that he was now at the Alpha Academy far away from his real home.
John got out of bed and went to the computer that had been provided for him. He pressed the power button and a loading screen appeared. As he had suspected, the computer was running on a custom Alpha Group operating system that seemed to be called OmniDawn. John was prompted to log on with a username and password, but he didn’t have that information. Fortunately, there was a Guest Log-on button which John clicked.
A small status bar at the top of the screen warned John that the Guest Account had many restrictions that prevented access to most of the network. John assumed this was a network that connected all of the Alpha Group’s systems. Ignoring the restrictions, John began to search for files that he could access and eventually found a document entitled ‘Local Facility Information’.
The Alpha Academy is involved with the research of The Original Subject. The facility was originally constructed in [redacted] and has undergone [redacted] renovations since then. The Original Subject has never awoken and much of the research on the Subject is done by professionals who specialize in neuroscience.
The Alpha Academy is fully equipped to integrate The Original Subject into today’s society should he awaken. More information on procedures and protocol to be followed when working in the Alpha Academy can be found here.
John tried to follow the hyperlink, but his access was restricted. Because John already knew that ‘The Original Subject’ was Acrotorus, the document hadn’t provided him with any new information. It was unlikely that he would be able to discover anything new by reading the Guest Account files so he turned the computer off.
John showered, dressed, and went to the dining room for breakfast. There he found Acrotorus and decided to ask him about the network.
“Acrotorus, do you have access to the computers here?”
“Yes. They gave me the necessary information yesterday. Do you need log-in information?”
“Yes. By the way, who are these people that you talk about? I haven’t seen anyone else in this place.”
“They don’t visit the main building,” Acrotorus explained. “This is my residence and it’s treated as my private property. There are other buildings that I get called to when they need me. I believe they only need to see me once every morning. I already went today.”
“I see. So, would you mind logging into your computer and letting me look around?” John asked. He was hoping that Acrotorus would have access to files that the Alpha Group didn’t want him to see.
“I’ll just give you my username and password.”
Acrotorus wrote down the information and John returned to his room after eating. He felt slightly guilty that he didn’t tell Acrotorus that keeping your username and password a secret is important, but he then reminded himself that Acrotorus didn’t exist in normal society. There was no one that was going to compromise the security of his account within the Alpha Academy.
Back in his room, John entered the information and the status indicator at the top of the screen noted that Acrotorus’ clearance level was marked as 3. John didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded promising.
While over half of the files were still inaccessible, John was able to find several interesting file names.
“A Brief Overview of Human Culture?” John thought to himself. “What other culture is there? Cultist Activity? Why would the Alpha Group care about cultists?”
There were other interesting documents besides those two, but they were beyond his comprehension. Eventually, he reached a document entitled ‘John Miller’.
Residence: The Alpha Academy.
Status: Under Protection*
Network Access Level: To Be Assigned
Overview: John Miller’s body had been activated and is primed for interaction with [redacted]. The effects of this activation are not clear, but no adverse side effects are expected. John Miller should be regarded as a high-ranking Alpha Group employee in all regions.
*Order for protection issued by James Radcliffe on 04/17/2012 at 01:13 EST.
The document was much longer, but these were the parts that John found to be the most interesting. James Radcliffe had ordered his protection and his rank within the Alpha Group appeared to be higher than those of the Abandoned. The scientists of the Abandoned were far more valuable than he was, so why was he being given this status?
John also assumed that he had been ‘primed for interaction with’ the Flame within the Arcane Sphere. The fact that this had been redacted was also interesting. After remembering that this was Acrotorus’ account, John was reminded of the connection between Acrotorus and the Flame. Perhaps the reference to the Flame had been hidden from him out of fear that Program Blue was correct. If Acrotorus was truly a god, then knowledge of the Flame might trigger something in his memory.
John didn’t know what he wanted to do next, so he logged off and decided to explore his room. Looking around, examining everything properly for the first time, John felt a sense of comfort and relaxation. He laughed at himself for being put at ease so readily, but decided it didn’t really matter. For now, this was his home so he should be able to think of it as such.
John walked over to a small table and picked up the control for the television and turned it on. Instead of working like a standard T.V., the device was far more interactive. The controller had a keyboard on it and allowed John to search for any show that he might want to watch. It appeared as if the Alpha Group had stolen every episode of every show owned by every T.V. network across the globe.
After browsing for a few moments, John turned off the T.V. and walked into the small library. The books on the shelves were varied and split into many different sections. Some contained books in other languages, others contained modern fiction, and some had non-fiction. A range of foreign non-English books were available as well. Most of the books were useless to him, not that he read all that much, but there was probably something that he would enjoy.
As he looked through the books, he began to remember his time in the Library Complex. He briefly considered leaving the room and suppressing the memories, but he knew that it was something he needed to think about. The memories of setting foot in the library above the secret facility flooded into his mind. Being in this small library reminded him of sitting at the table with his friends wondering how they would escape. And then suddenly they were descending deeper and deeper into unknown dangers.
Cara, Adam, and Tracy had been lost that day. A funeral was held in the Great Library, but John hadn’t received any closure from that as he had held his emotions back. He wanted to understand why all of their lives had been lost and so he left those that wanted to protect him in search of that knowledge. That was when Radcliffe found him.
He hadn’t had any time to really understand that three of his five good friends, friends he had known for nearly ten years, were now dead. They weren’t gone from his life like Martha. They were dead. The word seemed filthy in his mind, inappropriate for people so important for him, but he forced himself to use it.
And at that moment, John realized just how sad and upset he was. He couldn’t even admit that they were dead and that proved just how much they meant to him. Time passed as John blankly stared at the books and let his emotions finally take control.
He tried to fight it, but that made him more upset. Soon his face was soaked with tears and he was sitting on the ground because he felt weak. There was no need to even think about everything that made him sad. The images naturally flashed through his mind as he cried and realized just how messed up his life was now.
They were all supposed to go off to college and start their future lives. They would go their separate ways, but they had always planned to visit one another and remain friends. To see each other over the summer and winter breaks while still living their own individual lives. None of that could happen now.
John was being forced to live outside of normal society in a mansion in Scotland. He was now on the other side of the world. Martha was probably even more emotionally devastated than he was because she had lost four friends and couldn’t reliably assume John was still alive. And both John and Martha would forever know the other three had died during events that couldn’t be spoken of.
John tried to breathe deeply to fight the dizziness that swept over him. A part of him felt guilty that he saw himself as a victim even though he was one of the people who was still alive. He knew that he had a right to be upset over the destruction of his ideal future, but he couldn’t accept that at the moment.
Eventually, he calmed down and was able to stand despite feeling horrible both emotionally and physically. He wiped his face with his shirt to clear up his vision and decided to take another shower to clean up.
It was when he left the personal library that he noticed that a woman was in his room.
“John, how are you doing?” she asked. She could see he wasn’t doing well based upon his appearance, but she ignored that.
“Who are you?” John said with a shaky voice.
“I’m Lydia, personal assistant of James Radcliffe. I escorted you to the airport after you were tranquilized.”
“…doesn’t it feel strange to admit something absurd like that?”
“Not really. How are you doing today?”
“Well, I don’t know anything about your organization or why I’m here but it’s comfortable at least.”
“Very good,” Lydia said with a smile. “I’m surprised that you haven’t figured out your purpose here yet. It should be obvious from the name of the place.”
“The Alpha Academy sounds like some sort of training facility.”
“Yes, that’s right. You’re here to be trained as a member of the Alpha Group.”
“Why would he want to do that?” John asked, referring to James Radcliffe.
“He simply wants to. For a member of the Alpha Group, justification isn’t necessary. However he decided, through careful planning or on a whim, he has decided that you will become a member of the Alpha Group and that’s how it will be.”
“You can’t say something ridiculous like that. My life doesn’t belong to you people.”
“That’s right. Your life is controlled completely by you, but your fate is not. There’s no force in the world that can interfere with James Radcliffe’s will.”
“What about suicide?”
“As I said, there is no force in the world. The chances of you taking your own life are incredibly slim, and even if you did, that wouldn’t be much of a problem.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
John couldn’t believe what this woman was saying. Was she being ridiculous or was she telling the truth? She said it so naturally that John didn’t know how he should interpret her words. Could the Alpha Group be so powerful that even death wasn’t an obstacle? There was no way that was true.
“Anyway, you should rest for now. If you’re smart, there may even be an opportunity in the future for you to get what you want. That will all depend on you.”
And with that, Lydia left.
John closed and locked his door and looked around. Yesterday, he had accepted the reality that this was his new life too easily. Did he lack the strength to face the reality of April 15th and 16th? Or was he already beyond sanity like the other members of the Alpha Group?
After hearing the door lock, Lydia took out her phone and dialed a number with too many digits.
“So, have you made a decision? Is it worth the effort?” she asked.
She waited for a response.
“I see. Then I’ll hold off on that for now. He can enjoy living in the Alpha Academy a bit longer. Yes, I’ll go to work on my main mission now. It should be over soon. Your months of waiting are going to pay off.”
Lydia ended the call and put her phone in her pocket. She smiled as she walked through the halls of the Alpha Academy. Her job was immensely satisfying at moments like these. She would always be happy after a phone call like that. She felt as if she was fulfilling her purpose in life.
“You can’t do this.”
Lydia turned around to see a figure. She instantly recognized both who and what it was. The image was herself, but it was just a hallucination.
“I thought I had a few more hours before I needed to take my medication,” Lydia said.
“You know this is wrong. You know you aren’t right. That there’s something wrong with you.”
“Yes, I know that. The medication stops me from seeing hallucinations. The best doctors in the world have confirmed that I’m fine. You’re the only problem in my life as I have no physical or mental injuries.”
“You’re so convinced that you’re fine… please, listen… no, just listen!”
The illusion begged as Lydia reached into her left pocket and took out a bottle. She always carried her medication with her in case an event like this occurred. The pill acted abnormally quickly and the illusion was gone in less than a minute. Lydia felt an invigorating shiver throughout her body as she turned around and continued walking.
“As I was saying earlier, I really am fulfilling my purpose thanks to the Alpha Group.”