ITERATIONZERO V1: Chapter 1



Eyes adjusting to the dim red and blue lighting of the Stasis Block, Cameron stumbled down from her chamber on shaky legs, naked and shivering. She steadied herself through sheer willpower as the nearly impenetrable fog of deep sleep receded from her mind.

She stood amongst a row of occupied stasis chambers. Thick wires and tubing, like snakes, coiled their way in and out of the towering machines literally humming with life. The metal floor was cool beneath her feet and her caramel skin, dewy in the misty air. She took a deep breath, flexed her toned muscles back to life, and exhaled. She felt…refreshed.

“Name?” A female’s voice echoed through the room seemingly from every direction.

Cameron snapped to attention, stiff with hands at her sides. “Cameron.”

“Function?”

“Commander and Pilot.”

“Iteration?”

“Zero.” She raised her chin proudly.

That was something not many Genies, if any at all except Just Born, could claim. It’s significance not only highlighted Cameron’s uniqueness but also how deadly she was.

There was an abrupt rasp of static, then silence until—

“What did you dream about?” A male’s voice reverberated around the room deep and ominous.

Cameron’s features hardened at her Master’s question. “War.”

“Excellent. Get ready.”

~

Cameron fastened the straps and clips of her combat suit’s breast plate. It’s purplish-blue armor was a stark contrast to her crimson hair and piercing grey eyes. Already intimidatingly tall, the alloy heels of her boots put her well over six feet.

She was considered a perfect weapon amongst the Genie ranks. An expert physical combatant coupled with an array of psychic abilities. A hyper focused mind and a cold heart made her, and her team, first pick for the most crucial missions that would be suicidal for any others.

She wondered how many beings would die today, or more accurately, how many she would have to kill. She wasn’t bothered by it at all, of course. It really didn’t matter. Killing was what she was made for, but as of her last couple of missions, and for reasons unknown to her as of yet, the question was becoming more prominent in her mind.

The reinforced door to her armory slid open with a resonating hum. She looked over her shoulder to see two naked women entering; Miyako14, an Asian female, putting her long blonde and pink hair into a bun and bangs, and Vyra6, a Latin woman, with short shaggy brown hair nearly concealing her green eyes.

They stopped in their tracks and saluted with fists to their chests. “Commander!”

Cameron turned to her subordinates looking them over with a keen eye. “Sleep well?”

“Adequately.” Vyra6 nodded then headed for her locker.

Miyako14 continued fixing her hair. “Just glad to be awake!”

“Indeed.” Cameron adjusted her fingers in her cut-off gloves.

“So, what’s our mission?” Miyako14 stared up at her anxiously with vibrant blue eyes.

“In due time, Miyako.” Cameron cracked her knuckles. “In due time.”

~

Cameron met the course already plotted in her Strike-ship’s Nav-System with a scowl and noted it would take her team to a small moon on the outskirts of Human space. She worked the controls in prep for a Warp Jump to get her mind off the small infringement on her territory.

As little a thing as it was, it grated her nerves. No one touched her ship but her and her team, in any way. Everyone knew that. Their mission must be of some great importance for her rule to be broken. 

Reasons had better be damn good, she frowned.

Just behind her, to the left and right, Vyra6 and Miyako14 manned their stations in the small cockpit amongst lit screens and blinking lights.

“Miyako.” Cameron leaned towards her.

“Scanners, communications, propulsion, and ship’s AI are green.”

“Vyra.”

“Weapons, shields, and counter-measures are also green.”

“Good. Signal us ready.”

“Yes, Commander.” Vyra6 acknowledged.

Cameron’s gaze drifted from her controls out to the endless depths of space just on the other side of the cockpits thick reinforced glass. Darkness stared back at her, speckled with pin-pricks of light.

A lifetime ago, she gave up on wondering what all was out there. What was the point? She went where she was sent, did what she was told, then went back under stasis until the next time she was…un-holstered. Never straying from that path, that’s been her life for the past one hundred and seven years. She’d seen so much death and very little life, all by design she knew, and though it was getting…redundant, to say the least, it was what she craved to do most; also, she knew, by design.

“Morning, ladies!” A gruff voice shot over the ship’s com system.

Cameron nodded. “Anthony.”

“How are my favorite Genies? I hope y’all enjoyed your beauty sleep ‘cause you’re about to be thrown in the fire.”

“Are we ever thrown anywhere else?” Miyako14 retorted.

He chuckled. “No, I guess not, but this one’s hotter than usual.”

Cameron cleared her throat and the mood with it leaving silence in her wake. There was no time for banter. “What’s the mission, Anthony?”

“That’s coming up, Cam, but Knight’s leading this one.”

“Knight?” Vyra6 exclaimed. The shock on her face betrayed her normally cool exterior.

The cockpit became oddly quiet and even without her empathic powers Cameron could feel the tension radiating from her subordinates as it filled the space between them. Vyra6 and Miyako14 rarely, if ever, interacted with their Squad Master. His orders usually came through Cameron or Anthony. She could understand their…surprise, but she didn’t like them expressing it.

“Team.” The same ominous voice that asked Cameron about her dreams in the Stasis Block poured through the com-system.

“Yes, Master?” All three women answered.

“You are headed to The Pinnacle, a HuGo lab on a small moon in the early stages of colonization.”

Cameron’s view screen flared to life with a rotating image of a large structure.

“A new organism was birthed here, of our own creation, but the situation has become rather…catastrophic in terms of its development.”

”How so?” Cameron cocked an eyebrow. She could easily guess the answer, but she wanted to hear the official one. HuGo scientists were always pushing their limits and usually to fatal ones. About which, she wouldn’t complain at all as it was how she and her kind came to be.

“Last communication with the lab,” Anthony spoke up. “before it went into security lock down an hour ago, reports the organism as beyond their control and extremely hostile. Facility Personnel were taking massive casualties, and even more were becoming infected.”

“Infected?” Vyra6 questioned, curiosity lacing her voice.

“The organism” Knight began. “so far, has the ability to genetically mutate any life form it encounters. At least, it has thus far, and the resulting mutations possess that same ability creating an endless viral cycle that we have yet to fully understand or develop a cure for.”

“How many personnel are assigned to The Pinnacle?” Cameron touched the structures image on her view screen causing it to switch to a blueprint schematic detailing its many floors and rooms.

“Two Hundred.” Anthony answered. “Lab Techs, Maintenance, Engineering, Administrative, and Security.”

“The Pinnacle was made to house many more,” Knight took over. “But this organism was a special project, so only a limited number or resources were assigned to it for secrecy.”

“So,” Miyako14 chimed in. “Everyone in The Pinnacle could be infected and mutated by now for all we know. That’s nearly two hundred hostile mutations, and if those things manage to breach the lock down…”

“The Colonists will be next.” Vyra6 finished. “We can’t let that happen.” There was genuine concern in her voice. A concern that made her amazing at her job of Combat-Medic.

Cameron stared at the rotating image of The Pinnacle on her screen, her mind processing the situation. “But, this is bigger than the Colonists.” She leaned back in her seat. “If it or its mutations were to somehow make it off that moon…”

“Precisely.” Knight intoned. “All known life in the galaxy will be at risk.”

A stark silence reinforced the weight of the situation which Cameron conceded was good enough reason for someone to touch her Nav-System.

She frowned in thought, then switched The Pinnacle’s image off her screen. “So, what is your will, Master?”

“Infiltrate The Pinnacle,” He started. “Retrieve as much research data on the organism as possible, evacuate any survivors, but most importantly, kill the organism, all of its mutations, and anyone who may be infected. Do not let them escape the lab. That is paramount.”

“So, uh, what does this thing look like?” Miyako14 asked, brow furrowed in speculation.

Knight cleared his throat. “That’s hard to say. Not only can it mutate other organisms, but by ingesting a target creature’s DNA, it can mimic them as well or morph into any combination of sampled organisms to make a new form.”

“Fascinating…” Vyra6’s said, her gaze turned inward, her mind at work behind it. Cameron glanced back at her and she quickly blinked out of her thoughts and composed herself.

“At any rate, I’m sure you’ll know it when you see it.” Knight offered.

“Understood.” Cameron initiated the Warp Engine. A deep vibration rippled through the ship and she adjusted herself in her seat. “How is the infection passed?”

“Bodily fluids. Blood, saliva, through ingestion or breach of skin.”

“Any VIP’s we should look out for?” Vyra6 inquired.

“Yes. Doctor Aaron Saul.” Knight said, and the picture of a rather young looking man popped up on Cameron’s screen. “He’s the organism’s lead creator. He is the best shot we have for developing a cure for the mutation or at least a way to stop it.”

Cameron studied the picture. The scientist was rather young looking, too young of a Human to be in his position she thought. Light skinned with close cropped hair, his eyes hazel bore an intensity she’d seen before in many other scientists, soldiers, and civilians alike, and it usually meant trouble.

“If he’s still alive,” She switched the picture of her screen. “We’ll bring him back.” Then, she  modified the course in her Nav-system which would get her team to the moon ten minutes earlier than what was originally pre-set.

That’s why no one should touch my ship.

“Team, listen.” Knight stole their attention again. “HuGo Command has allotted you four hours to complete this mission. Upon success, a Cleanup Team will be sent in to recover the lab.”

“And if we exceed four hours?” Cameron asked, once again wanting an official answer.

“If we do not hear back from you within the allotted time, or you do not complete your mission before then, HuGo Command will send in a fleet to obliterate the moon from orbit. They will not chance the organism, its virus, or its mutations getting off the moon’s surface.”

“So then, it’s total annihilation of the lab, the colony, and us.” Miyako14 snickered. “No pressure at all.”

“Master, you know where we stand on all this,” Vyra6 spoke up. “But what about the colonists?”

“Considering the threat this organism poses, HuGo deems them an acceptable loss. So, it’s up to you three to make sure we don’t have to take that loss.”

“When does the clock start?” Cameron gripped the Strike-ship’s steering controls.

“As soon as you reach The Pinnacle.”

She glanced back at her team, their faces were set with focus and determination. “Got it. Let’s go.”



Find out what awaits Cameron and her squad at The Pinnacle in the Next Chapter.

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