Times were tough, and for the immune it was hell. The viral outbreak of 2017 engulfed the world, demolishing civilization leaving a few thousand to fend for themselves in a new world. Human decency and modesty was lost; compassion and kindness died along with the billions who lost their lives to the outbreak. Survival became the first priority; every man for himself - it’s a dog eat dog world and all those other selfish sayings. However, for a group of three, everything was split equally between them. James Cole, Jose Ramse and Ariana ‘Ria’ Ramse had a history before the universe decided to take Earth back, executing its number one enemy. The trio had known each other since they were thrown into the foster system as children; Jose and Ria already being half-siblings sharing a father.
Cole had volunteered to keep their temporary place of rest secured as the Ramse siblings scouted the area for useful items and food. It was cold and Ariana was already tired from her lack of sleep. Without the proper walls of a safe haven, the woman never received sleep as her mind was constantly on alert; worried they would be found by the ruthless West VII. In fact, the thought lingered in the back of her mind even as she scoured their surroundings. It seemed the brand on her right arm itched whenever her mind would remember the faces of the men who drooled over her body. Jose promised she’d be safe from the group after they escaped, promising he would protect her until his dying breath; but he didn’t go through what she went through in the duration of their affiliation.
The sun beat down on them as they walked through the dystopian world. Dried out tumbleweed moved alongside their footsteps with the faint wind; creating the deserted feel the Earth exemplified in their time. “There’s an old supermarket just up ahead.” Ramse rounded the corner and knelt beside the woman, hiding from sight behind a sea of cars. “It doesn’t look like there’s anyone in it but…”
“We never know,” Ariana finished for him as she moved to watch the supermarket through the dusty windows of the car she hid behind. The two stayed frozen, their eyes watching for any signs of movement within the facility. Every building they had infiltrated had been picked clean by previous scavengers; the supermarket was their last hope before returning to Cole. After ten minutes the woman gave a nod before she rose to her feet, tire iron in hand. Ramse moved in front of her, guarding his sister as they neared the building. Each step followed a glance in the opposite direction, their attention scattered to watch for threats.
When they reached the front door, Ramse carefully opened the glass obstacle, staying to the side in fear of traps; they had encountered some in the past - a very near death experience for Cole. “On my go.” Ramse signaled for the woman to stay behind him as he took a few steps into the building, his eyes carefully searching.
The sudden movements hadn’t processed in her mind until Ariana felt strong arms wrapping around her malnourished body. The realization of West VII tracking them had flicked on a light bulb in her head; she swung the tire iron held tightly in her hand down to the shin of whoever it was holding onto her. A loud yell of pain echoed in her ear as the arms loosened, giving her the opportunity to slip through them and away from Wilfredo Ramirez; the right-hand to the leader of the VII.
“You’ll pay for that you bitch!” Ramirez yelled from the ground as Ariana could hear Ramse’s pleads for her to run.
“I’ll meet you at the camp! Run!” Without another thought the woman’s legs took her as fast as they could away from the men surrounding them; her ears struggling to hear the faint sounds of groaning from pain due to Ramse’s strikes.
Ariana reached their camp in less than twenty minutes; a record time for the distance between the supermarket and the camp. The woman leaned forward, her hands finding her knees as bile escaped her throat and onto the ground. She was breathless, exhausted and hungry; it seemed lately she grew familiar with the three physical emotions. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could take running; hiding from the man she swore she would one day kill in his sleep for trapping her with him. In a world where there was nothing but violence, Ariana knew she wasn’t meant for it; there was only so much one could take.
Hearing faint footsteps, the woman snapped her back straight, looking toward the sound. From a distance she could see a man standing guard with what appeared to be an AR-15 in hand and a military uniform. Raising a brow, Ariana took shelter, peering around an abandoned car to keep her eye on him. He stood at the entrance where Cole had resided.
Silently Ariana crept to the man, waiting until he moved out of sight of whomever it was he was with before she knocked him out with her tire iron. Taking the firearm, Ariana took in a deep breath before she slowly rounded the corner to see a blonde older woman speaking to Cole through the bars he was located behind. Aiming the firearm in her direction, Ariana stealthily approached the older woman, the barrel of the gun being placed on the back of her head.
“Where’s Ramse?” Cole asked as he moved himself in an upright position.
“West VII,” was all Ariana had to say for the man to understand. With a nod, Cole looked to the older woman, demanding for his friend to join for him to accompany her in her mission. The older blonde woman moved her head to get a glimpse of the person holding the gun to the back of her head.
“Fine. But only if she lowers the weapon.”
Cole pleaded with Ariana to remove the barrel aimed at the woman’s head; Ariana was hesitant. There had been rumors throughout West VII; stories of a facility no one could find where a mad scientist they named Dr. Grim had been conducting experiments on the immune, turning them into monsters from failed antidotes.
“Only if I get to keep the weapon,” Ariana bargained as she moved to look at the older woman.
“Fine.” Lightly tapping the trigger with her pointer finger, Ariana finally lowered the weapon but still kept it tightly in her hands. “I’m Dr. Jones. And you are?”
Cole moved out from the tunnel he had burrowed in and walked in plain sight between the women. “Jones here is offering us beds to sleep in, food to eat … a shower.” Ariana gave the woman another glance before she beckoned for Cole to follow her away from earshot to have a private conversation.
“Are you sure we can trust her? Don’t you remember the stories about a mad scientist? She could be the one they all spoke about.”
“I considered that; but come on. You could take her.” Ariana gave him a look, showing her dislike for the situation. “Look, we’ll go size things up and if we don’t like it then we’re gone, I promise.”
“And what about Ramse? What if he escapes West VII?”
“Then you’ll find him.”
Shaking her head, Ariana let out a soft sigh before she gave a curt nod, her glare finding a smiling Dr. Jones.
“Lovely. Now if you’d be so kind to wake up my man, then we’ll head on our way to the facility.” Cole looked down to the ground finding an unconscious army clad man. Instantly he knew it was Ariana who had taken him down and retrieved his weapon.
With an innocent smile, Ariana walked over to the man, lightly kicking his legs. It took a few tries but he awoke, frustration evident in his expression as he rose to his feet, demanding for his weapon to be returned. Ariana refused, backing away with the firearm tightly held in her hands. “Leave it Whitley; we have more at the facility. As long as they come with us, that’s all that matters.”
A chill traveled down Ariana’s spine from Jones’s words; a gut feeling telling her things were going to change, drastically. “We’ll take your lead,” the woman spoke.
Jones nodded, beckoning for Whitley to follow behind her; Cole followed, then Ariana who took it upon herself to keep guard. She knew West VII was out there and who knew if one had followed as she ran away from the supermarket.
Their trek to the facility had taken half the day. Jones and Whitley hadn’t seemed affected by the walk, however, Cole and Ariana knew their tired legs couldn’t take anymore. Standing just outside the facility, they exchanged glances before their eyes widened; they were safe for once. The feeling of a safe haven housing necessities seemed too good to be true. Ariana knew they were going to have to do things they wouldn’t like in order to stay behind the walls and she feared the price to pay was too much.
The sigh she released told Cole everything he needed to know about her thoughts and he placed a gentle but reassuring hand on the small of her back; his way of promising everything was going to be okay.
Offering him a small smile, Ariana made the first move toward the building.
Once inside the duo noticed the lack of light within the walls; first issue of living in the facility. Cole, Ariana and Ramse had been living on the run from West VII for so long they grew accustomed to the sun’s rays hitting their skin, warming their bodies when the frigid air grew too cold. Dr. Jones offered the solution of the roof as their source of vitamin D; a solution they could handle.
The next issue Ariana had found was the lack of information given by not only the doctor, but all the other scientists located at the facility. If Cole was going to be on some kind of mission, Ariana wanted all the details and what he was entitled to do. Dr. Jones kept her answers short and cryptic, and for some reason Cole was okay with this; Ariana wasn’t. She knew if Jones was, indeed, Dr. Grim, whatever happened to all the men who had entered the facility and never left could potentially happen to a man she viewed as her brother.
“Some things are meant to stay behind closed doors, Ms. Ramse.” Ariana rolled her eyes to the scientist’s words, her gaze immediately falling upon Cole. “Mr. Cole’s mission is simple and he will get it done; you should have no worries.”
Easier said than done.
Ariana hesitantly stood by Cole as he settled himself within the seat of the alleged time traveling machine. Holding tightly onto his hand, the woman begged for him to assure her everything was going to be okay; he did, promising he would come back to her in one piece.
Moving herself behind the control board, Ariana gripped tightly on the weapon she continued to carry as she watched the machine spring into action.
“Initiate Splinter Sequence.” Jones’s voice echoed through the room as the machine’s loud screech overpowered her octave. Almost immediately a blue ray engulfed Cole and he let out a yell of pain.
“What’s happening?” Ariana questioned, moving quick beside Jones.
“The machine is transporting every molecule in his body to the designated time; I never said this process was going to be painless.” Ariana’s eyes squinted into a glare at the doctor before she moved her eyes to where Cole once was; an empty chair greeted her instead. With eyes widened in disbelief, Ariana felt her mouth slowly open in awe.
“It worked,” she whispered. Jones allowed a victorious smile linger on her lips before she leaned back against the control board. “Now what?”
“Now we wait for him to return.”
After a long while Ria had gotten impatient with waiting for her big brother to find them; she took matters upon her own hands. Without the permission or approval of Cole or the Doctor, the woman escaped the confines of her new home and went searching for her brother. Just a few hours of sunlight left, the woman held tightly onto the stolen AR-15 as she maneuvered her way through low hanging branches and overgrown roots. Worry slowly began to rear its ugly head and Ria’s impatience only expanded to new heights as the sun seemed to quickly set. With nighttime creeping upon her, Ria knew scavs would come out and her safety would be in question.
She was just about to give up in her search when she spotted a limping figure approaching her. Kneeling where she was, Ria peeked through her scope and saw the familiar face of her older brother. “Ramse!”
“You need to send me two years to the day.” Cole’s voice echoed through the dank corridors, staggered and exhausted. The siblings and their footsteps grew nearer to where the Splinter machine was located where Cole was laying in the seat, his hands clutching his abdomen and writhing in pain. Ria’s eyes widened as her eyes couldn’t believe what she was witnessing; nor could she believe her reality at the moment. Cole had disappeared - she witnessed it with her own eyes. And now he was laying in the seat again, this time hurt.
“What the hell happened?” Ramse’s voice echoed through the room - Whitley pushing him back.
“I’m okay,” Cole called out, his face scrunched in pain.
“Initiate Splinter Sequence.” This time Jones’s voice replaced Ramse’s and the machine kicked on again. Bright blue and white lights engulfed Cole and in an instant, he was no longer there.
“What the f-.” Ramse turned to his sister, eyes widened in disbelief.