Chapter 1A Chapter by Nicole
Wren is 15 when the story begins and her older sister, Sparrow, is 18. Their mother named them both after birds because she wanted them to believe no one could ever cage their spirit.
This is all I’m going to write about what happened before. Part of me doesn’t want to write it at all, but my sister would say that I should because I might be the only one left with anything good to write about. She would say that this was as important as anything a historian or politician would write about.
Because this is a little bit of proof that there is still
love in the world.
- Wren Marlowe
6 years ago I lived with my dad and my older sister in a little old farmhouse in Texas. That was before anything had happened yet and project Archangel had just been started.
A lot of people boycotted project Archangel, including my dad, and you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing riots, protests, and picketing mobs with sights that said “KEEP HUMANS HUMANE” and “NO CLONE COPS.”
I watched a lot of DVD’s back then.
I really don’t know much about project Archangel apart from what I remember my dad saying; I was only 15 when it all started. But I know some.
It all started with one man named David Rickard, a young wealthy CEO of a company called SANCTUM Industries. They engineered weapons and protective body armor for soldiers and cops. David Rickard seemed to have good intentions, but the part of him I knew was so far removed that it probably doesn’t count.
Anyway, he began a new project that would “prevent the unnecessary loss of human life” in jobs that were considered hazardous. Cops, firefighters, soldiers, EMT’s, and security officers made up the bulk of what they called hazardous professions.
It was all grounded in the sciences of cloning, gene manipulation, and neurological alteration which made the project highly controversial and an easy target for conservative skeptics. Rickard used himself as the primary guinea pig for all the experimentation and it was his DNA they used to make the clones. He was young and ambitious and really stupid for thinking people would only see the good in what he was trying to do. He used his company to make thousands of these clones, altering them and creating four basic “models” of himself that would be engineered specifically for whatever job they were needed to do.
The military was the first to jump on board, using one type of model as substitutes for soldiers. They would follow orders without question, had no emotion to impair their judgment, and wouldn’t allow themselves to fail even if it might cost them their own lives. After that, the police forces and firefighters started using them too. Then hospitals and emergency services used them for EMT’s in situations where emotion might cause someone to make a mistake that might cost someone else their life.
They were supposed to be perfect for whatever job they were “programmed” to do. Their minds were supposed to be mechanical and robotic in that they were altered so that they didn’t question orders, feel empathy or emotion, experience a sense of free will, or have any kind of independent thoughts that were beyond their programming. They were supposed to serve and obey and take a bullet for the 40-year-old father of 3 that might have died on the job. They were basically machines made out of flesh, nothing more and nothing less.
Their faces all looked the same, being clones of the same man, but they had different hair and eye colors to differentiate between the different model types. To eliminate any kind of threat to the public, they operated under the strict codes of the law and never made any mistakes when it came to the proper course of action. They were all sterilized, so they couldn’t procreate, and the portion of their brain that produced the sexual hormones was removed. All of a sudden an army of robotically minded eunuchs consumed the nation. Heh.
David Rickard called them Archangels because they were supposed to protect us and yet blend in with the human backdrop of our world. Invisible guardians that looked just like people. He ended up with 4 models that went into mass production, all named after angels. They had tattoos on the back of their necks telling what kind they were, what model number, and stuff like that.
The strain on the public they caused was insane and you could practically feel it in the air. It was only a matter of time before something went wrong and one man’s attempt to do something good got a lot of people killed.
For me, it was weird to go to the mall and see five security guards that all looked and sounded exactly the same. But when my dad found out our local community had utilized some of the new Archangels, he didn’t let us go out very much.
I think he could sense that it was only a matter of time until things started in a downward spiral. That’s why we didn’t really kick up much of a fuss about it.
We had an old storm cellar out behind our house, built entirely underground except for the small, round steel door that opened up to a deep dark hole plummeting a good 5 feet straight down. A ladder, like in a manhole that goes down into a sewer, was the only way in and out of the cellar. My whole life that shelter had been more like an exterior basement where old baby highchairs and rusty tricycles went to retire indefinitely. But as the Archangel project generated more controversy and tension, my dad started cleaning it out and stocking it with food, lots of food, and a lot of other random supplies like cans of gasoline and a pair of bunk beds.
All of a sudden, my sister and I were made to sleep in the same room at night. He showed us how to lock the steel door on the shelter, which he’d modified to seal closed like a vault, and how to turn on the ventilation system he’d installed to keep the air clean and breathable for long periods of time. There was a little portable toilet that was easy to empty, but we weren’t allowed to use it. We weren’t allowed to eat any of the food he was saving up down there and, above all, we couldn’t tell anyone about our shelter.
It wasn’t really a mystery to either of us why dad was doing all this.
In the end he was right.
It was later that same year that everything started to unravel in a hurry and we all sat in front of the TV in the kitchen and watched the world fall apart.
It didn’t have anything to do with project Archangel, at least not at first. No one really knew where it started or even when, only that the spread couldn’t be stopped and there wasn’t a cure. No one knows even now... but no one really cares anymore either.
I remember hearing that it might have been some kind of divergent strain of rabies from South America. It infected people with a great many unpleasant symptoms that came in swift but definable stages, the last of which was death.
There was no time to generate any kind of cure or vaccination; the spread was simply too fast and too devastating.
First people thought it was airborne, because of how fast it was spreading. Hundreds and thousands of people by the day were becoming infected. Schools shut down, people fled from cities, and we moved into the storm shelter in the backyard, but didn’t eat any of the food or stay in during the daylight hours. After all, there hadn’t been anybody in our part of the state who’d been infected yet.
Then they decided that the infection, true to form for a rabies type of virus, was transmitted by saliva or body fluids and more commonly be being bitten.
Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem but, just like the known rabies virus, the final stages of the virus included psychosis and uncontrollable rage...so a LOT of people got bitten.
It spread and no one could hide from it.
Note even us.
My dad got sick first. Some woman at the grocery store bit him and a few other people before someone finally shot her. Apparently, her husband was trying to get her to a hospital in Miami that had a “cure” before she lost her mind. Poor b*****d. If he’d loved her at all he would have just shot her before she had to suffer and before she killed anyone else. But he didn’t and a bunch of other people got infected because of it.
There isn’t a cure. There never was and there never will be.
We were still living in the house during the day so my sister and I were cooking dinner when my dad came home and told us he was going to die. The virus took 3 days to fully manifest and cause the neurological symptoms that made the people who were infected so dangerous.
On the first day, dad showed Sparrow and me how to fire, load, and clean his guns. I’d never seen him look that pale before and Sparrow said his fever was almost 105 degrees.
On the second day, he showed us how to unlock his gun safe in the laundry room, how to use the water-purifying canteen he’d bought, and how to work the solar powered flashlights he’d bought. The fever had him bedridden before he could teach us anything else. Sparrow wouldn’t let me in to see him but I could hear him throwing up no matter where I went in the house.
On the third day, before Sparrow and I had come out of the storm cellar where we were sleeping at night, my dad dug a grave for himself in the front yard. He put his Jericho 941 semi-automatic pistol to his head and shot himself before the psychosis set in.
Sparrow found him and together we buried him in the grave he’d dug. Suddenly we were alone, armed with everything he’d taught us and left behind for us to take care of ourselves. We had food, safety, and each other...but that didn’t last long either.
I didn’t find out how she got infected until a year after she died. She wouldn’t tell me and at the time, it really didn’t matter how it had happened. I watched my older sister die for two days, held her hair while she vomited, kept a cool rag on her forehead as she trembled with fever, and tried to convince her that everything would be okay.
Sparrow ordered me to shoot her before the psychosis started. She said she finally understood why dad had done what he did; he didn’t want our last memory of him to be of one of us shooting him as he tried to kill us in a foaming, psychotic rage. She didn’t want that either.
But I was only 15. I couldn’t kill my sister.
I didn’t want her to die and be left alone.
So I used duct tape to tie her down to her bed in the house; it was our compromise since I didn’t have the guts to shoot her. I stayed with her and kept her talking until the last stage of the virus finally started to take hold. Her eyes glazed over and turned a milky, glassy color. Her mouth seeped a pinkish bloody foam. She didn’t recognize me anymore.
Then I let her bite me. Just once on the wrist.
I just couldn’t stand to keep on living without anyone.
Sparrow died late that night and I covered her with a sheet. I couldn’t stand to do much more than that and so I shut her bedroom door and never went back into that house again.
© 2010 Nicole
Added on September 29, 2010
Last Updated on September 29, 2010
Wichita Falls, TX
AboutA Numerical Overview: 1) I am physically incapable of keeping any plant alive. I have killed two bonsai trees and a cactus so far as well as the few potted plants I've bought from walmart over seve.. more..