Blackwater Base was constructed underground. Day or night the time crept by with everyone living their same routines. The only real difference were the lights, with two thirds being extinguished during night hours and turned back on when it was day outside.
In about ten minutes the rest of the base's lights were scheduled to turn back on.
Chimp stumbled along the road back to his apartments, fighting through the fog that swallowed his brain. He still hadn't realized the keys were missing from his waist. Instead the fraught and irritated expression on his face was from other matters.
The object of his desperate desire was not easily obtained, he found. He thought the time to finally unwrap that devil woman had come, where he could have his way with her without a struggle. To ensure success he'd even spiked her drink.
Any normal woman, no matter how chaste, would have been begging for it after just a sip. The effects should have lasted a full day and night. But on the contrary the more she drank the more willful that damn woman became! He was the one who ended up overdoing it.
She was a difficult one to deal with! It was no wonder why the Academician once said her talents were comparable to his!
Of course, Hellflower was young and her knowledge came nowhere near that of the Academician. What's more, he was specialized in a single field while Hellflower's thirst for knowledge wasn't focused. Her interests were wide, so although she had come to be one of Roste's most outstanding assistants she would never rise to his level.
Chimp's throat was dry, his tongue swollen, and his eyes muddled. He winced against the urgent fullness in his bladder and looked hurriedly around for a vacant corner. Upon finding one the director opened his trousers and prepared to relieve himself.
As Chimp brought his hands around his belt he finally noticed that something was missing. The sudden realization cleared some of the mist from his brain and painted his face with pale understanding.
He fished around for the keys when suddenly his desperate search was interrupted. A mighty gust of wind whistled from behind!
Chimp was in a rare moment of distraction, not to mention recovering from his night of drinking. He reacted too slowly to Cloudhawk, who dropped from overhead with his white ghost mask and tattered cloak. A fierce and forceful karate chop to the neck knocked Chimp down and dazed him. Cloudhawk, peering left and right to make sure no one was around, flung the scientist over his shoulder and fled.
An indeterminable amount of time later…
Chimp groggily awakened to find himself in an unfamiliar place with his wrists tied behind his back and his ankles strapped together. A black cloth covered his eyes while his mouth was stuffed with fabric to keep him quiet. He couldn't see, and no matter how he struggled he couldn't move either.
"Hmph! Hmm-nngh-mmph! Phhmph!"
He tried to shout through his gag to no avail. He was Academician Roste's lab director! One of the top five most important people in the whole damn base! He was only passable as a fighter, but nonetheless was one of Roste's most important scientists. Blackwater Base didn't consider physical strength among the most respected traits, otherwise the Academician wouldn't be leader.
As a result Chimp wasn't strong but that didn't mean he wasn't important. Usually when he left the labs he walked around with an escort, but his mind had been clogged with images of what he planned to do with Hellflower's body. A security detail would only have gotten in his way, but he didn't think leaving them behind would have led to this!
Who the hell would dare? Who was the asshole stupid enough to kidnap him!?
He continued to struggle but got nowhere. The fear inside him was growing by the moment. Suddenly someone snatched the cloth from his mouth.
"Who! Who the fuck - obviously you must be fuckin blind, otherwise you'd know who the hell you're dealing with!" Now that he once again had the ability to speak he recovered some of his courage. He spoke like a man chastising his subordinates. "How dare you kidnap me! Do you know you just signed your own death warrant?"
Someone gave him a nasty punch in the ear.
Suddenly Chimp's new-found courage was gone.
"You-… you hit me?! I-I'm Academician Roste's lab director!" The more frightened and angry he became the more comically the lab director wriggled around. He was like a funny little worm flopping around in his chair. "If anything happens to me, you can bet your ass you won't leave this base alive!"
Another mean-spirited slap hit him across the side of his head.
The smack was so hard it stunned him for a moment. His assailant knew who he was, and that realization frightened him all the more deeply. Chimp lost control of his full bladder and its contents soaked his crotch then slithered down his legs. A foul smell followed. He pleaded with his kidnapper, choked with sobs and his blindfold blotched with tears. "Don't kill me - don't kill me! What do you want! I'll help however I can!"
The voice that answered was raspy and unsettling, like it came from the throat of a demon. "I'm going to ask you some questions. You're going to answer."
This was an entirely unfamiliar voice to the director. Did an outsider somehow sneak into the base? It seemed most likely, since there was no one in Blackwater he could think of who would be brazen enough to kidnap him. After all, who didn't know that he was Roste's student and confidant? Yet besides being an important person, lustful, and all around gross, he didn't have anything worth being kidnapped over.
The voice returned, low and threatening. "What experiments are being performed in Academician Roste's laboratories?"
His assailant's question only confirmed Chimp's suspicion that this was an outsider. Otherwise how could he not know? Eager to keep breathing he answered. "Biological experiments. B-b-biological recombination experiments. The Academician has f-found a way to c-combine different organisms."
His inquisitor was silent for a few seconds, then continued. "Combine? How?"
"There's a fifty percent chance of success on average, but even if successful eighty percent of our subjects lose their humanity. They lose all racial identity so we use drugs to wipe their memories."
"What about Hyena?"
"Hyena is an exception. He hasn't shown any signs of losing his humanity, so the Academician let him keep his memories and free will."
"Is there a chance he could lose control?"
"This… this I don't know. He is the only test subject who has managed to stay cognizant. He's still considered a test subject but is our most stable product to date."
Cloudhawk didn't continue his questioning. Chimp got nervous. "Killing me isn't going to help you at all. Just say it, anything, I'll tell you everything I know. I'm begging you please don't take my life!"
What a fuckin' worthless ass! How did this spineless shit-stain manage to live so long in the wastelands?
Cloudhawk already confirmed everything he wanted to know. He didn't need to keep up his questioning.
So Academician Roste wanted to use him as a test subject, eh? He wanted to use Cloudhawk's body and turn him into some puppet supersoldier! One with the strength of a wasteland beast and the power of a demonhunter. Just think of what kind of price a weapon like that would fetch!
This old fart never had any good intentions!
Cloudhawk unceremoniously knocked Chimp out again, cut the ropes that tied his hands and feet, then returned his keys to his waist. His task completed, Cloudhawk quickly fled the area.
At last the kid understood why Roste saw him as so important.
Somehow the old coot was using ancient scientific methods to transfer mutant animal powers into human bodies, thereby turning them into incredibly strong fighters. Like Hyena. Before the procedure he was probably about as strong as the Tartarus mercenaries captains - nowhere near what he was now.
Two years ago Blackwater Base was attacked. At the time Hyena was a normal man, a leader of one of the base's defense teams. During the attack one of the enemy flamethrowers caught him full in the face, nearly killing him right then. He was done, and even if by some miracle he lived he would be an invalid.
Academician Roste felt that losing such a good soldier was a terrible waste. He decided to combine him with the essence of a mutated wolf, resulting in an unexpected and unprecedented success. After half a month, his body neither rejecting the mutagens nor collapsing from the stress, he began to change. More importantly he kept his mind and as such Roste promoted him to one of his most important subordinates.
Hyena, it could be said, was Academician Roste's single greatest stride in these experiments.
Only now the Academician wasn't satisfied with just creating the likes of Hyena. He desired progress, to push the limits by attempting his methods on a demonhunter. Just think, a warrior with the build and strength of the most ferocious wasteland animals, and simultaneously in possession of superhuman demonhunter abilities. That would be - in a word - perfection!
Of course to Cloudhawk this was unacceptable. Setting aside the high mortality rate, the vast majority of the successes lost their minds. They became beasts. Even in the extremely unlikely event he came out like Hyena he wouldn't even be considered human anymore. The essence of who he was would be something else - a monster. How could they know what problems would arise in the future?
Cloudhawk did desire strength and power, but a transformation like this…!
He was starting to put the pieces together, but Cloudhawk knew that he was being closely watched. If he made his move now the only thing he'd accomplish is to tip off his captors that he knew what was up . He had to pick the right moment or getting out in one piece would be difficult. It was just like Mantis would always say; an excellent soldier or assassin had patience and superb timing. The right time to act was when things were under your control.
For now, his best bet was to continue pretending he was on board. It was unlikely the old man was going to risk his ultimate experiment.
Cloudhawk pondered his situation as he walked back toward the residences. The only person who could help him was Hellflower. How she could help him he was yet to figure out, but he knew he would need her. He was too weak to escape on his own.
Academician Roste was a crafty old fox with a few dozen intelligent mutated warriors at his beck and call. Not to mention Hyena who was devoted as any zealot. On top of that Blackwater Base was ten times - a hundred times better equipped than anywhere else in the wastelands.
And once he escaped? What then? There was still a marsh between him and freedom.
Luckily he had options for Hellflower as well. The translation he'd helped her with was kept in the safe in her apartments. He could use that knowledge to threaten her if needed. So far it was his one hope to flee this evil place.
When he was a few hundred feet away from his destination, lost in thought about his circumstances and what to do with Hellflower, he was met with something unexpected. Suddenly he felt a tightness grip his heart, an omen of danger he had come to know intimately.
Before he could react an enormous iron net fell on him. He was captured!
Eight poison-tipped darts shot at him from several directions. His face fell - someone was trying to kill him! Was it Roste? Hellflower? Hyena? Or had Chimp somehow found out who'd kidnapped him?
1. 'Hit the grass and surprise the serpent.' Chinese is cool