Edited by Beth
The door was pushed open and Romuller nodded his head towards his armed subordinates standing guard on the front porch, “Jane.”
The female Alpha responded and looked back at him, but noticed her chief commander’s expression looked horrific; a large portion of his shirt was drenched in sweat, the edges of his pupils cloudy— it was a sign that he couldn’t hold back his emotions any longer.
Jane was extremely suspicious, but quickly controlled the expressions on her face, retrieved the truth serum and handed it over.
Romuller swung the door shut and locked it behind him.
Si Nan’s whole body looked like it had just been fished out of cold waters, dripping-wet hair slicked onto his snow white face, the blue veins on his arms and neck strained visibly against his skin, even his tightly shut eyelids had light traces of the terrifying blue lines.
But it was useless, Romuller knew, he had already built up an immunity towards the electric shocks.
Romuller forced out the air in the syringe, grabbed one of his arms, gritted his teeth and injected the whole serum into him.
The truth serum was prepared before he came to China, but based on past experiences, the serum could not force out the finer details of information from the user, there was a certain margin of error. Even worse, sometimes the truth serum couldn’t make the user immediately recall all the answers from memory, and it would only begin taking effect slowly within a week’s time; in other words, it’s not a very convenient tool of interrogation.
If it wasn’t for the fact that he had no other option, he wouldn’t plan to ever use this method either.
Si Nan began struggling in his daze, his efforts making the cuffs clank with every movement, but was firmly pressed into place by Romuller.
“Where are the finalised antibodies?” He held Si Nan’s sweat drenched jaw in his hand, not allowing him to turn away in pain, “After you jumped from the plane, that sub-zero briefcase you had with you, where are the finalised antibodies inside?”
Si Nan whined, his eyelids lifted a little, but he couldn’t see anything clearly at all.
“Did you inject yourself with it?” Romuller asked over and over again in English, forcing him to look at him, “Did you use up the antibodies?”
Si Nan gasped, as if he were floating in the middle of the deep ocean, the boundless ocean with no end in sight that had cut off all sounds, from his eyes, ears, nose, mouth, to every pore on his body, it seeped into him, squeezing all his organs and intestines into a ball.
“There are no antibodies,” he heard a delicate female voice speaking slowly.
In his haze he was suddenly very young, the twelve apostles depicted on the stained glass windows of the church appeared in his eyes, if he wanted to look up any further, he’d have to crane his neck all the way back in order to see the white sculpture of a cross that stood up straight towards the ceilings.
The woman dressed in a black veil held his hand, and stood in front of a black pine coffin.
The priest asked, “Have you thought about it, madam?”
“I dragged him back from the pits of hell, but failed to fully bring him back to humanity. He’s not alive, and he’s not dead anymore. He paces back and forth in my lab, day by day, as seasons come and go, crying and sobbing with loneliness and hatred…”
Tears fell down her sweet and beautiful face, and dripped onto the white flower adorned on her chest.
“Pandora’s box has been opened, catastrophe, pestilence, famine and agony have flown out in manic glee, and in the end it spread across the land right before winter fell, before spring arrived, it destroyed the entire world.”
“I am powerless to stop it, there is no cure in this world that can save everything, I can only seal the box closed with my own two hands…”
The woman walked forward, and received a black wooden box from the priests hands, retrieved a turquoise test tube two fingers wide after opening the box and placed it on top of the lid of the coffin, and then removed a torch that burned brightly with vigour from the walls.
Young Si Nan took half a step back in fear.
Under the light of the blazing fire, the test tube that glowed green seemed like the fang of a venomous snake, emitting a mesmerizing and yet deadly light.
“…The punishment that mankind received for stealing the heavenly fire, will be scattered to ashes under the roaring fire…”
Suddenly the door was thrown open and the woman looked back in shock as bullets tore through the air, the torch was hit and sent flying far away from her hands.
Soldiers poured into the church, crying sounds and curses drowned out everything. Si Nan tripped and fell amidst the throng of people running for their lives, soldiers seized them like tigers and wolves would their prey, and snatched away the test tube from the woman’s hands.
“Reporting, reporting, successfully retrieved the virus specimen…”
“Run!” The woman’s sorrowful shouts echoed through the chaos, “Quickly, run—!”
And then the following scenes overlapped messily in his memories, creating countless bizarre hallucinatory images.
Si Nan only remembered that the ground wouldn’t stop rumbling, and that it was actually he himself that was stumbling backwards; the last scene he saw before he completely lost consciousness, was that of a soldier opening the freezer case, in the midst of the cold white haze that dissipated into the air, he carefully placed the turquoise test tube inside.
It was clearly just a minor detail, but he didn’t know why that scene would remain so clearly embedded in his mind after all those years, even in his faded memories it remained so blindingly vivid—
On the cover of the sub-zero briefcase, embossed was an expressionless eagle, with its wings spread wide open.
Above the lab, a white eagle was carved into the steel ceiling.
The last drop of turquoise green liquid was injected into his spine, and after a few minutes of complete silence, under the watchful eyes of the audience, the dead person’s body began convulsing, and it made a deep and rumbling roar from the bottom of its chest.
The room rang with applause, the researchers congratulated each other, there were people hugging, but suddenly there was a shocked scream—the dead person stumbled to the ground, grabbed a researcher closest to it and bit into his ankle!
There were anguished screaming and struggling, fresh blood splattered in all directions, and following that, were the erratic sound of footsteps running for their lives.
Si Nan stood behind the glass window at the top of the lab, and looked down on this group of people who slammed and punched at the doors repeatedly, crying in despair. The undead threw away the remains of a corpse that was more than halfway bitten to shreds, propped itself up on the floor, it crawled towards them step by step, dragging behind its body a long trail of black blood.
Si Nan raised his gun, but didn’t make any other moves for a long time, until the glass reflected the silhouette of someone that walked up behind him, “Noah.“
Si Nan pulled down on the trigger.
It whizzed lightly through the air, and the head of the zombie exploded only two to three steps away from the crowd of frightened people, brain fluids splattered across the ground.
“What were you doing just now?” that person asked coldly.
Si Nan did not answer, instead turned around and threw away the empty gun, fixed his cuffs and walked outside.
However in the instant they brushed shoulders, Romuller violently grabbed the collar of his shirt, and slammed him heavily into the glass wall, staring down into his cold eyes at close distance:
“You were obviously able to shoot it dead the moment you realised the experiment went wrong, why didn’t you do anything?”
Si Nan didn’t make a sound.
“You were purposely looking right as the researcher was bitten to death, because when you were younger you had been punished by him,” Romuller said lightly, “Isn’t that right?”
They looked eye to eye for quite some time, and the corners of Si Nan’s mouth slightly curled upwards.
The colour of his lips were pale, if it were someone who didn’t know him and they just gave a cursory glance over him, they would feel that the smile looked really good, even giving off a hint of gentleness.
“You destroyed the reports I submitted to request for a closure of all experiments and the destruction of the virus, didn’t you?”
The corners of Romuller’s brow twitched.
“It’s alright,” Si Nan cut off his explanation before he could say anything, his voice that was tinted with a hint of hoarseness actually sounded rather good, if one ignored the blatant mockery behind his words, “After all, it’s the last time.”
Si Nan got out of his hold, and walked towards the large door, Romuller looked at the straight back of his silhouette and shouted, “How many times do I have to tell you, Noah! ‘Pandora’s Virus’ is a groundbreaking advancement for humanity that will help us achieve longevity and resurrect the dead, from this day onwards there will be no god, humans can achieve immortality!”
Si Nan did not look back.
“Your mother’s experiment failed because she didn’t manage to decode the last genome of the virus -that, is the real key to the secret of immortality. Just like how the last object left inside of Pandora’s box was Hope, today is the day that humans release it. As long as we persist, only can the last gene sequence be…”
“There is no such thing,” Si Nan said plainly, “That is not hope.”
Romuller crossed his arms and furrowed his brows, only to see Si Nan’s face turn sideways to look at him.
—From this angle, he actually looked a lot like his mother, there was a look on his face that words could not describe.
“The last thing left inside of the box is an unrealistic delusion, in the myth, it spread all over the passage to hell, the territory under Ajax.”
“Just like everything that you have done today, when Pandora’s box is opened once again, the last gene sequence of the virus will send all of humanity to its grave, dragging the whole world with it into hell…”
“But that has nothing to do with me.” Si Nan paused for a moment, and smiled once more, “I won’t die, after all.”
Romuller stood frozen in place, and watched as he left with unhurried footsteps.
The lightning broke past the dark clouds, the rainstorm poured down, the gravestones scattered in the cemetery were drenched wet in the rain, appearing as a salty dark gray colour.
A helicopter began slowly descending amidst the loud thundering, a few casually dressed Chinese people were on the phone, and jumped into the sticky dirt stained cemetery, however Si Nan did not look back at them. He stood in front of the grave stone, his lips icy cold but soft, muttering an unknown passage, he kissed the brass pendant that hung in front of his chest, leaving the droplets of water to drip down his raincoat and bucket hat in streams.
The light of the torchlight and footsteps drew closer to him, the footsteps amidst the showering sounds of rain were cautious and careful, and in the end someone cleared their throat and spoke in Chinese with a hoarse voice, “Sir.”
Si Nan gave no recognition of his words.
The person diligently continued, “According to the agreement, Mr. Guo had us send you something.”
He stepped forward, footsteps kicking up mud and water, held in his hands was a white rose drenched wet in the rain.
Si Nan stopped his prayers, and under the attention of the crowd he stood silently for a moment. Only then did he reach out to take the stalk of the rose, then bend down and place it into the dirt in front of the gravestone.
This pre-arranged action made everyone simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief, the newcomer found it hard to contain his excitement, “Hello, we tried for a long time, but we never had the chance to meet with you successfully. Mr. Guo has already completed all preparations, the people under the internal chief of the White Eagle base have already prepared for the follow-up…”
Si Nan opened his mouth, and exceeding everyone’s expectations, his Chinese was much more fluent that they originally thought:
“And the responder?”
The visitor froze, and said, “He will be Senior Guo’s personal trusted aide.”
Si Nan shook his head.
Nobody knew what he meant, and for a moment the cemetery fell into silence, only the heavy rain that clouded over the skies rumbled on.
The soldiers out of uniform exchanged glances amongst themselves, and waited for the moment to pass before hearing Si Nan slowly speak:
“Your esteemed country’s military has a secret operations team with the highest security clearance, numbered 118, divided into 8 sub-units.”
The other party quickly gave a response after a short moment of contemplation, “Very well, keep talking.”
However Si Nan didn’t care whether he agreed or not, there wasn’t a single difference in his unwavering tone of voice.
“In Squad 118 there’s a captain surnamed Zhou, I request for this person to bring Vice President Guo’s only grandson to meet me at the destination. If I don’t see these two people when I get off the plane, I will immediately assume that my identity has been exposed and kill the responder, and leave with the target. If at any time during the meeting, the safety of I or the target is threatened in any way, as punishment, I will first kill Vice President Guo’s grandson, and then leave.”
“There are billions of people on earth, you will never again find a trace of my whereabouts.”
Si Nan turned around, rain boots stepping on murky waters, making squelching sounds.
The special agent that took the lead spoke deeply, “No problem, all of your requests will be granted and fulfilled, we will immediately relay this to Senior Guo.”
Si Nan smiled, “Your Senior Guo knows I don’t trust anyone…”
He walked out of the cemetery under the watchful eyes of the plain clothes officers, his plain voice fading out in the distance in the curtain of rain.
“…I only want the people I arranged for to come get me.”
In the summer that year he was fifteen, in the tropical rainforest, the flora and fauna flourished densely, sunlight scattered spots of light into the wide and luscious viridian green leaves of the jungle. A young special forces soldier has his palms crossed, having fallen asleep cushioned in his own palms. His face was painted with dirt and war paint, but you could still make out his handsome face from the sharp brow line, straight nose bridge and angled features.
A young man stepped over the ground covered full of softly fallen leaves. As he carefully tip-toed his way over and squatted down next to the special forces soldier, making no noise like a cat.
He held his breath, the tip of his finger held an ant that he wanted to place on the tip of the special forces soldier’s nose.
In the instant right before he almost succeeded, the special forces soldier’s eyes didn’t open, but he flipped over and pounced on to the youth before the youth could react, pressing him beneath his body like a beast hunting its prey, and began tickling the youth’s neck and armpits without a word of warning.
“Hahaha….” The youth laughed so hard he couldn’t catch a breath, scrambling to beg for mercy with flailing limbs, “I was wrong, I was wrong, I’ll compensate with a fruit… hahaha!”
The youth took out a ripe red berry from the pocket of his pants, but before he could say anything, the special forces soldier straightened up his body and retrieved an even bigger red fruit from his clothes pocket, and retorted as the youth stared in amazement, “Who is it that wants to eat that, hn?”
The bonfire burned fiercely, illuminating the flying bugs that constantly hovered around the pile of fire as well as the rest of the dense forest that surrounded the fire in a radius of several metres. The youth sat with his legs crossed next to the fire, lazily peeling off the skin of a fruit, and dragged out the syllables of his question: “Why is the fruit that you picked sweeter than mine—”
His corner of soft lips had been dyed a healthy flush of red from the berry juice, the special forces soldier was walking around putting up the sleeping hammock while occasionally looking back at the youth, his unnoticed gaze staring at the side of his relaxed face unblinkingly, giving a cursory hum of reply, “Who knows, I had to walk a few miles to find it, who told you to refuse to eat normal food.”
“Of course I’m not eating energy paste.”
“Only you’d be this picky.”
The special forces soldier finished setting up the hammock, and tested how secure it was. The youth watched the soldier’s busy figure from a comfortable spot, a hand supporting his head, “Da-ge, you’ve kept watch several nights in a row now, let me keep watch tonight—”
“You’ll keep watch? What will you do if a wild animal comes and snatches you away?”
“I’ll just shout, then.”
“I’ll shout hero! Save me! Save me—”
The special forces soldier laughed, and walked over to ruffle the youth’s hair.
“I don’t want to sleep in the hammock,” The youth next to the fire rolled over, talking with a mouth still biting the core of the fruit.
“Why, is it uncomfortable?”
“There’s nothing I can do about the cold.”
The youth circled around the fire and agilely flipped his body, his movements appearing very agile and flexible, successfully avoiding the arms of the special forces soldier who wanted to carry him onto the hammock.
“Little student!” The special forces soldier had no choice, he held his forehead in his fingers and asked, “What do you want to do, then?”
Under the illumination of the flames, the youth rolled his eyes that were as clear and bright as glass beads, and smiled, “I’ll sit here and keep watch for the night, give me the gun, you just go and sleep.”
Before he finished his sentence, the special forces soldier sat his butt down next to the bonfire, and waved him over, “Come here,”
“I’ll do magic tricks for you.”
The youth came forward just a little and was then dragged into the soldier’s arms, long legs dressed in camouflage cargo pants held onto the person firmly trapped in his embrace. He hadn’t even the chance to struggle before he had been wrapped up in the warm military jacket, even his neck was stuffed tightly, not even a bit of breeze could blow in.
“Magic done,” the special forces soldier explained curtly, “Sleep.”
The back of the youths head was held firmly in place, his head leaned onto a broad and solid chest, he was a little dazed for a while.
He could hear the other person’s solid and thundering heartbeat, alongside the gentle sounds of the crackling bonfire, as well as the distant sounds of wind blowing through the forest. But the cold winds that whistled as it made its way through the jungle suddenly seemed so far away, as if it no longer had anything to do with him, the warm arms that surrounded him had cut off the icy cold, dangerous and lonely world.
He carefully breathed in, in his nasal cavity was the pheromones of the young and exuberant alpha, mixed in with a hint of sweat.
This was the first time in his life he’s ever felt safe surrounded by these scents.
“…I haven’t asked, what’s your name.” The youth mumbled out a question in a state between wakefulness and slumber.
The special soldier held the gun in one hand, cautiously scanning the dark forest that had danger in every corner in the night, “Hm? Contestants and hostages revealing names to each other is against the rules.”
“Just tell me…”
The special forces soldier pressed the youth back into his arms, helplessly, “Sure sure sure… don’t you dare tell anyone else.”
“…My last name’s Zhou.”
“Zhou one, Zhou two, Zhou three, Zhou four…”1
“Zhou Rong!” The special forces soldier was annoyed to no end, and smacked the back of the youth’s head as punishment, even if his movements were so gentle they could be considered careful, “The Rong that means armed forces and horses2.”
The young man finally displayed a semblance of satisfaction, “Okay.”
“Next time you’re in danger, just call for Rong-ge.” The special forces soldier paused for a second, his handsome face appeared as though it had flushed slightly redder in the light of the fire, and he quietly said, “As long as you call Rong-ge… no matter where you are, I’ll save you.”
No matter how far, I’ll always come get you.
Eleven years later, zombies invaded T city center. Si Nan caught hold of the hook from mid air, and was caught by the waist in an embrace by Zhou Rong, the motorcycle spun out of control behind him and crashed into the tide of zombies.
The two held onto each other tightly amidst the deafening explosions that shook the earth, and stumbled into the military tank together.
“Last name Zhou, first name Rong from bing ge rong ma3. And you?”
My name is Noah.
In the dim and dark apartment flat, Si Nan’s brows were furrowed as he gasped hoarsely, painfully curling up his body littered full of electric shock scars, his cold sweat seeped through the layers and layers of bedding.
Across high mountains and wide oceans, years since we last met…
Just like the promise you once made me, please come and get me again, one more time.