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Persona Atma

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The idea of losing control of yourself was scary, but it kind of stopped being so scary when the results were helpful. That probably sounded callous to most, but when the results allowed some kids stuck in inhumane experiments to escape… Maybe it wasn’t totally a bad thing.

At least, that’s how Serph looked at it when he came to and realized he was surrounded by dead scientists and security guards (half eaten ones at that). The last thing he really remembered was being told they were going to do a special test that day… And then they’d injected him with something.

After that, he’d felt the overwhelming urge to devour. What, he wasn’t sure, but… Judging by the corpses, he could kind of make a guess as to what. Well, whatever. Now wasn’t the time to think about that. Heat and Argilla had been led into other testing rooms, right? He had to make sure they were okay.

He made his way to the door, unlocking it and taking a step out… Barely making note of his reflection in the mirror that hung on it. Since when did he have a mark on his face like that…?

Now wasn’t really the time to worry about some mark, though. He could worry about it after he made sure the others were okay… There was a decent chance whatever had happened to Serph happened to them. There was also a chance whatever it was had killed them, which was… scary.

“Heat…?” He made it to the door he’d seen the redhead go into and started pushing on the door. It didn’t want to open, like there was something pressed up against it… “Heat, are you in there?”

He heard the sound of grunting and something (probably a corpse) being moved before the door opened and he nearly fell into the room. Well, at least if he had it would’ve been into Heat’s back and not a corpse or something. Heat’s back was at least a little less gross.

“Heat--”

“I heard you the first two times, Serph.” Heat turned back to look at him and Serph blinked a few times. There was blood covering the other’s face and teeth… Well, that told Serph what they’d been eating, then. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, but… You’re a messy eater.” He reached out a finger and wiped some of the blood off… And stuck the finger in his mouth without thinking about it.

“Yeah?” Heat wiped some of the blood away from his own mouth and copied Serph’s action of ingesting the blood. “Well, shit. I guess we’ll have to find Argilla and see if she knows what’s going on.”

Serph gave a small nod before giving the room one long look. It was pretty gruesome to see… Heat, whatever he did, had been pretty nasty to everyone stationed in his testing chamber. Not that Serph could exactly blame him… They’d been through a lot thanks to these scientists.

“Let’s go.” He turned on his heel and started for the door before looking back at Heat. “We should hurry.”

Heat nodded, a hand on his hip, and Serph couldn’t help but notice there was a black mark on his arm. Had whatever they’d been injected with caused those to show up on top of of the other things that had happened? He guessed he’d find out when they found Argilla.

“So… What happened to you?” Heat moved to walk next to Serph after they exited the room. “They injected me and then I wanted to just… Devour everyone around me. I can’t really remember anything else, though.”

“It’s the same for me.” Serph gave a shrug, not having much else to say. Heat had covered what happened well enough.

“Yeah--”

“Serph! Heat!” They both turned their heads at the sound of Argilla’s pained voice. “There you two are! I was so worried…!”

She looked disheveled, that was the first thing Serph thought when he saw her. Her shirt collar was ripped, just enough that he could see a black mark peeking out on her chest, and her pants were in even worse condition. There wasn’t any blood on her, but her hair was wild… She wasn’t taking any of this well, was she?

“Argilla…”

“We need to find someone and tell them what happened…” Argilla looked back at the room behind her. “I-I don’t know what they did to us, but I don’t like. I don’t like this test.”

Heat scoffed, walking around her to look into the room. “Why should we tell anyone? This is our chance to escape.”

“Escape? But what about Gale and Cielo?” Argilla furrowed her brow, arms crossed against her chest. “We can’t just leave them!”

“We can get them on our way out.” Heat walked into the room, returning a moment later with guns in hand. “Hopefully whatever they did to us won’t stop us.”

“Guns? Heat what--” Argilla stumbled back a step when he shoved a sniper rifle at her.

“We have to stay protected, the guards could kill us otherwise…” Heat looked to Serph and tossed him a handgun. “This is for you.”

“It’s smaller than yours and Argilla’s…” Serph turned it over in his hand.

“You don’t have as much strength, anything bigger would hurt you more than help you.” Heat rolled his eyes, as if it was obvious.

“And you can handle a grenade launcher?”

“Of course I can.”

Serph and Argilla shared a look, but decided against saying much else. If he was so sure about it, there wasn’t much they could do about it. All they could focus on now was making it back to the rooms they were usually held in. Gale and Cielo had been left out of experiments today, but Serph had heard a scientist say they’d be the second wave or something…

“Come on.” Serph started down the hall, taking the lead without even thinking about it. Heat and Argilla didn’t even say anything, just following behind him in silence.

It was kind of funny, for such a scary situation they all sure were remaining calm. Well… As calm as a few people could be when they all woke up pretty sure they’d been eating people beforehand.

Soon enough, they’d travelled the halls and made it back to their usual holding rooms. There hadn’t been any staff on their way here, though… That wasn’t normal and it was starting to worry Serph. Had everyone left or were they setting something up to stop the three of them? It was hard to tell and would be hard to tell until they either got out of here or ran into someone.

Argilla wasted no time moving to Cielo’s room door and pulling on the handle, Heat doing the same with Gale’s door. They didn’t budge a bit and… A siren started going off. Shit. The scientists did usually use key cards to get them out of the rooms, didn’t they?

“What’s going on?” Cielo moved up to his door, slamming a hand against it.

“Cielo, don’t worry!” Argilla somehow kept her voice calm. “We’re going to get you two out and get out of here…!”

“If we can just get these damn doors open…!” Heat grunted, placing a foot on the door and pulling harder. “Why won’t it open?!”

“There’s a magnetic lock, you will not be able to pull it open with raw strength.” Gale’s voice came through his door, as logical as ever. “The alarm likely means guards will be on their way. You three should take this chance to escape and regroup.”

“We can’t just do that!” Argilla turned towards Gale’s door. “We should all escape together--”

“You can come back for us after regrouping!” Cielo slammed his hand against the door again. “If you all get caught now we’re probably not getting another chance, ja?”

“...You’re right, but…”

Serph put a hand on Argilla’s shoulder and gave her a small, hopefully reassuring smile. “We’ll come back in just a few hours.”

“Before they do what they did to us to them?”

Serph nodded.

Argilla seemed to think for a minute as Heat stepped back from Gale’s door and started back the way they came. It looked like he’d just accepted the fact they had to get out of here… And after a few moments, Argilla seemed to accept it too. Not happily, Serph was pretty sure, but she accepted it.

“Come on.” Heat pushed the door open and looked around. “I don’t see any guards, we should be in the clear--”

Serph stuck his head out under Heat’s arm before pulling the other back into the hall. “There was some movement. We should think about this before we go out there.”

Heat looked at him with a frown. “We just shoot them with the guns and grenade launcher.”

“No, we need to be more careful than that.” Argilla crossed her arms. “If they see us first, they might shoot and we wouldn’t have a chance to do anything.”

“Hm…” Heat looked them over and sighed. “You have a sniper rifle, don’t you? Take a shot and while they’re distracted by that Serph and I can have a chance to take them out.”

“That might work, we’ll only have one chance to pull it off, though--”

“Found them!” Shit, had they heard them talking and rushed over here? “Grab them before they get away!”

Heat reached for the weapon on his back, only for a guard to rush in and grab his wrist. Serph could see the the guard was squeezing, too, probably enough to break a bone if Heat struggled too much…

And then something happened.

It felt like something pulsing through Serph, something he couldn’t explain… Not past a hunger and strange sensation in his face, of all places. He could barely register that the same thing seemed to be happening to Argilla and Heat before he felt like… His body had changed. He felt bigger, stronger, deadlier…

And judging by the way that guard went flying, Heat was having the same experience. Well, that was probably a good thing, seeing as Serph was ready to fight his way through the guards. He chased after the thrown guard, barely registering Cielo’s yells of ‘what’s going on?!’

There were three guards, all pointing weapons at him… He could sense that Argilla and Heat had joined him and the guards began shifting their weapons between all three. When the first one jumped at Serph, he could feel a blade come out of his hand and he cut them down with more ease than he was expecting…

He didn’t even watch as the monstrous forms Heat and Argilla took defeated the other two, too focused on devouring the body in front of him. The others didn’t really register again until he was finished and he heard the crunching of bones and the sound of retching.

His form returned to normal, he looked over at the other two breathing heavily. Argilla was doubled over, throwing up from disgust at what Heat’s still monstrous form was doing…

You know, Serph had expected eating a body would be gruesome, but Heat took it to another level. It was like watching him eat his meals, sloppy and sauce flying everywhere. Only this time the sauce was blood. And the rest of the food was human innards and limbs… Still, the simile stood, as far as Serph was concerned. Heat was gross when he ate.

“How can he do that…?” Argilla sounded like she was about to get sick again just at the sounds. “H-how can either of you eat people?”

“It felt like that’s what I had to do…” Serph’s voice was quiet as Heat returned to the form he knew. “Like I was supposed to eat them.”

“I feel stronger after doing it, too…” Heat wiped some of the blood from his mouth. “It might be useful to do that.”

“Useful?!”

“The stronger we are, the easier it’ll be for us to break Cielo and Gale out later.” Heat put a hand on his hip and sighed. “Besides, don’t you feel hungry? We’d probably have to do it either way.”

“No, t-this has to be temporary…” Argilla shook her head and stood slowly. “Whatever they injected us with has to wear off…”

“Don’t kid yourself. None of their tests are temporary--”

Serph held up a hand and shook his head. “Not now, we can talk about this when we get to safety. Come on…”

Heat and Argilla both frowned, but nodded and followed after as Serph started down another hallway, hopefully towards the exit. He made a silent promise to be back before this time the next day and, with a deep breath, fully focused on escape.