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Mutation

Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 1:01 pm
by AnonymousTypewriter
“Name?”

“…Tsukino, Hiro.”

“Occupation?”

“I’m uh, I work in a host club, bartending mostly, in downtown Tokyo.”

“Mutation?”

“Er, elasto-derma. My uh, skin stretches. And um, I can control it?”

“Demonstrate.”

The short man with dark hair buzzed close to his scalp screwed up his face in concentration, looking pained a short while before the skin on the top of his head began to ripple and pulse, oozing down the sides of his head to pool over his ears. From there, it slowly stood up on end, forming a cone. There was a sense of immense strain from the man before the cone rippled again and collapsed in on itself, until the man’s scalp lay flat again.

“Limitation of mutation?”

“I can’t hold it for long, it takes a lot of energy… and the skin isn’t strong, it’s just skin, can’t do much with it…”

“That will be all, please move to the next room for processing and re-assignment.”

The man’s eyes widened, and a low whine emanated from his throat before he slowly got to his feet, numbly walking out of the door at the back of the room. That had been a relatively easy one, thought Sakura as she pressed the button to buzz in the next subject. A younger girl entered, not much older than Sakura herself. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her breaths came in gasps. Sakura kept her expression neutral, as per her training.

“Name?”

“P-please, let me go home…”

“Name?”

“My mom can’t live by herself! I swear, I didn’t mean to, I won’t, never again!”

“Name. Now, Miss.” Sakura’s eyes were empty as she looked at the girl, who swallowed hard, reaching up to tug on a strand of hair but meeting only air as she let out a choked noise before her answer.

“H-Hideshi, Nana.”

“Occupation?”

“I… I intern at a law office in Kyoto.”

“Mutation?”

The girl’s eyes filled with fresh tears, “Please, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for anyone to know! No one was going to, I-“

Sakura sighed minutely. “Miss Hideshi, if you cannot cooperate I will have to process you without all relevant information. Do you know what that means?”

“W-what? No… I don’t.”

“It means your re-assignment cannot be matched to your skills properly. This is a great opportunity for you to serve your country in a way unique to you. Many thousands in Japan wish they had the opportunity you are about to receive. According to this file, you were seen lifting a car off of an injured animal.”

The girl shook in her seat, but her glistening tear-filled eyes dulled, and she opened her quivering lips.

“M-my muscles are… stronger than average, b-but not always, just… just when I see someone or something that needs help… then I can just… help them…”

“Then a demonstration in this office is not a possibility?”

“N-no… ma’am…”

“I see. Carry on to the next room, I will send a note of your situation so that an appropriate demonstration can be made.”

The girl shuddered so hard that Sakura thought she might fall out of her seat. But she did manage to rise, give a tiny bow, and left through the back door.

The next subject entered carried by an assistant.

“Name?”

“His name is unknown, he was left at an orphanage three days ago, nicknamed Tama-chan due to his… unusual eyes,” stated the assistant.

“Are the slit pupiled eyes the only mutation?”

“No, the infant causes lights to flicker and explode while crying.”

“Demonstrate.”

A needle was produced by the assistant and jabbed roughly into the infant’s tiny arm. It shrieked and began to sob loudly, the lights overhead flickered and Sakura’s computer began to heat wildly.

“What- SUKI! Get that kid out of here before he blows up my hardware!” Sakura shouted, the assistant nodding frantically and racing out the back door, the lights returning to normal soon after. Sakura shivered as she heard the screaming baby echo down the hall.

It was time for a well-earned break.

*

The lunch room was noisy as employees of the facility gossiped with each other about the mutants they were working with. Sakura recalled hearing about a woman the other day that could turn invisible at will, and another who could manipulate air to the extent of stealing it from another person’s lungs. Of course, most mutations weren’t so sensational. Some could only change the colour of their fingernails at will, or were able to know a person’s name instantly as soon as they heard their voice. But all of them were fascinating, and no two were exactly alike.

Sakura sat at one of the few tables with empty seats, next to a group of chatty bio-engineers talking about gene-reconstruction.

“In a few years, with all of these test subjects, we should be able to replicate the mutation process in a controlled setting!” one of them exclaimed excitedly.

“Yes,” said another, with a more tempered attitude, “But we won’t be able to control what mutation develops. If we were allowed a wider range of subjects to dissect-“

“You know that’s not happening,” a third interjected, “We only get the ones without useful powers. Like that kid who could make his hair grow fast. None of them last long, but the ones who can summon fire or lightning or whatever all get snapped up by the military division, and telepaths all go to Intelligence Services…”

“I thought you worked on a telepath last week?”

“Yeah, but they were already lobotomized. Standard procedure since they held sensitive information before they betrayed their handlers.”

“Ah.”

“Sometimes though, I… I kind of wonder what it’d be like to be a mutant.” One of the engineers said before jerking at the horrified expressions of his colleges, “Not like the ones we dissect, obviously! I mean, like the ones you see on TV, like uh, Yuki Yuki! You know, the one that’s bodyguard to the emperor! I heard she can sense ill intentions at a glance and has reflexes that are faster than light itself! Can you imagine? It’s like being a god!”

“Well, if mutants are gods, they sure scream like mortals,” another muttered, “I lost one of my earplugs this morning by the way, anyone have a spare?”

“Anyway, if you were a mutant, you wouldn’t get to pick your profession or anything, you’d just get assigned based on your power.”

“What power do you think I’d have?”

“The power to annoy everyone in the room- oh wait, don’t you have that already?”

The engineers laughed as one turned red and buried his face in his hands. Sakura finished her lunch quickly and stood, heading back to her station.

*

Before receiving her next arrival, Sakura took a moment to examine the file, as it appeared much longer than the others. Sakura noted additional questions to be asked for this particular arrival. The entire conversation would be sent to the higher ups for review. She had to remain professional. She tried to control the nervous twitch at the corner of her mouth.

The man entered the room. He looked to be in his mid-thirties mostly, but his eyes were deep set and betrayed many years, lined countless times. It sent a chill down Sakura’s spine to see them. His hair, long and glossy in his photo, had been shaved to the scalp. He sank into the chair provided with an expression that spoke of a weariness that no mortal man should have ever faced. It took Sakura a moment to remind herself to speak.

“Name?”

“Sweetheart, you know my name.”

Sakura’s eyes narrowed slightly. It seemed he was just as he had been described to her. “Yes. It is listed in your file. But this conversation is to be recorded, and this information needs to be confirmed verbally.”

The man stared at Sakura for a long time, looking rather troubled before answering. “Fine. Akamatsu, Daichi.”

“Occupation?”

“Doctor.”

“According to your file, you have not been a doctor in some time, Mr. Akamatsu.”

“Fine. Busker, then.” He added softly, “I play the clarinet.”

“Mutation?”

The man leaned forward, hands on his knees. “Hyper-Regeneration. Advanced Perception.”

“Demonstrate Hyper Regeneration.”

The man made eye contact with Sakura before suddenly biting into his hand, hard, drawing blood. Sakura sucked in a quick breath, grabbing her own hand in a burst of uncharacteristic sympathy. The blood welled, and then the cut sealed over in seconds, as though nothing had occurred to it at all. Sakura couldn't take her eyes off the place it had been.

“Limitation of mutation?”

“Can’t tell? Doesn’t work on my eyes.”

“Alright. Demonstrate Advanced Perception.” Sakura lifted a pen in her hand and moved it around, while the man’s face tracked the movements. His eyes, sunken and filmed over, were evidently not the reason he could follow anything.

Sakura nodded, placing the pen back on the table. She trained her eyes resolutely on the man's face again.

“You have been charged with abandoning your previous assignment. Please explain why you fled the hospital to which you were assigned.”

“I wasn’t assigned, darling. I was imprisoned and coerced, don’t sugar coat it.”

Sakura blew out air from her pursed lips. “Explain why you… abandoned your post.”

“Don’t you have record of this? It was only…” the man paused, seeming to think, “Well, over fifty years ago…”

“It has been one hundred and sixty five years since you abandoned your post as a doctor at the Tokyo Specialists Institute after maintaining your position seventy four years. Records from that time are… not as well documented. There have been multiple data wipes. The higher ups hope you can… fill in gaps for them.”

The man straightened in his seat, thoughtful a moment before flashing a smile. “Fill in the gaps, huh? I suppose I could do that much. You kids should really know what world you’re living in. I’ve seen a modern history book. Those things are a pack of lies. Mutations like these don’t happen from nuclear radiation! The only thing that'll get you is good and dead.”

Sakura shifted in her seat, very aware that she would be debriefed after this. There was no way she was going home today without signing a form swearing to never repeat what was said in this room to anyone.

“Then, please tell me in your own words why you came to abandon your post, Mr. Akamatsu.”

The man’s face tightened, suddenly, “You sure you want to hear it?”

Sakura’s face tightened in turn. It did not matter if it was sure. This was her job. “Yes, Mr. Akamatsu, if you would be so kind.”

“Alright,” the man leaned back in his seat, his face turned toward the overhead light “It was well over two hundred years ago the Great Japanese Earthquake brought down three nuclear reactors. I was a biologist at the time, specialised in human biology and radiation. I was one of the top in the country, and my team and I were tasked with finding a way to strengthen the human immune system artificially to defend against radiation poisoning. It seemed a fool’s errand, but with such a crisis in hand and the country in turmoil, it was all our division could do.”

“It was an accident, really. My partner had been frustrated with our lack of success and in a fit of anger threw an untested chemical compound onto our control rats that had been injected with a different compound we had been testing… the results were unexpected. Some died, of course, about twenty percent. But eighty percent had all signs of radiation vanish from their bodies, and it could not be reapplied. Two percent of the survivors though, we discovered later, had begun a mutation of their cell structure.”

“But we didn’t notice that at first. The government was thrilled at our discovery, and decreed it mandatory for all Japanese citizens to receive the new compound as a life saving measure. The only ones exempt from the mandate were the sick or elderly, or very young, whom they decided were more likely to die from the compound.”

The man’s face grew grim in his telling. “But this was not the case. Not at all. Within a week, the entire population had been injected with the drug. Within a month, almost a quarter of the population was dead. It was anarchy, everyone knew someone who had died, and the fact that the rest of the population had gained immunity from radiation was small comfort in that horror. The rest of the world, who had been waiting to receive the drug themselves, now balked at the idea of it, and largely condemned Japan for its actions.”

“At the time, my team became targets for protests… they wanted us dead, you see, for the crime of mass murder. Never mind the government pushing us to release a drug that killed a fifth of its test group. Never mind half the team had either died from the drug or killed themselves.”

“Our lawyers couldn’t help us. We were to be scapegoated and executed, lethal injection. I watched my colleges go to their deaths but when it came to me… I didn’t- couldn’t, die. They tried, multiple times, and it hurt, but I didn’t die. So I became the test subject, and for years I was kept in observation, given test after test to see the parameters of my powers. All they could say for sure is that if I was cut around my eyes it didn’t heal like the rest, it scarred. Why they didn’t yank my eyeball right out I’ll never know. Well, they can make up for lost time now…”

“You are getting off subject,” Sakura spoke up swiftly, and the man startled.

“Yes… yes, of course. Well, after a few years of that, I was approached by government officials. Other cases of odd mutations had spread across the populace. At first the government had been trying to remove them secretly, but a few had decided to try stupid things like becoming superheroes, or villains, or just showed off their powers in the streets. The more dangerous mutants were killing hundreds before they were stopped, created anarchy and chaos. The government had closed the borders for the first time in centuries, and the other world governments didn’t argue it, didn’t want anything to do with the hell that had arisen in Japan.”

“When even babies of parents without powers had begun to show signs of mutation, that’s when they came to me. I was to head a new project, to work in a “hospital”, my doctorate reinstated over a false name. I regenerated grievous injury, so I could handle more dangerous subjects, and my advanced perception allowed me to tell if a subject ever stretched or withheld the truth from their interrogators.”

“I worked there for a human lifetime, never aging. And over that time, I did help a few mutants get better lives, jobs where their powers were an asset, but many more I sentenced to death. I tried to erase data where I could, but I was limited, as much a prisoner as any mutant. So finally, I had enough and ran. Lived on my own a while, worked to help mutants flee the country a while, drank for a long time. Fell in and out of love, never married of course.”

“Do you have any living relations?” Sakura said, fighting to keep the breathlessness from her voice.

The man’s terrifyingly blank eyes snapped to her own. “Not that I know of.”

Sakura nodded slowly, carefully. “And then you were found.”

“I was indeed.”

“You will pay for your crimes against the state.”

“I know.”

“You will be made a test subject again.”

“I know.”

“I-“ Sakura choked herself off, and nodded briskly, looking down at her files. “That will be all. Please move to the next room for processing.”

The man, without a word, stood and moved to the back door and out of sight. Sakura let out a slow breath and waited.

After a few long moments, an Agent entered the room, sitting in the seat across from Sakura.

“What you have heard today cannot be repeated to anyone,” she said.

“I know,” replied Sakura.

“You will take the rest of the day off.” The lady paused, then looked sympathetic. “Did you know him personally, Miss Ito? You seem upset.”

Sakura shook her head, masking her expression. “No. I don't recall ever seeing him before today.”

The Agent nodded. “Go home and rest, Miss Ito. Remember, your government is trying its best to fix the mistakes of its past. These people did not ask for their mutations, but we must make sure they have a chance to make society better, and to live peacefully alongside us, under control so they do not cause the mayhem they once did.”

Sakura nodded, rising from her desk and grabbing the files. Her hand slid against the edge of the paper. Sakura yelped, eyes widening as a sharp pain blossomed along her palm, blood rushing to the surface.

“Oh dear! Are you alright?” the lady stood quickly, just in time to see the blood. Sakura was quick to close her fingers over her palm.

“No, it’s fine. I just need to go rinse this off, I have bandages in my bag!” Sakura hurried out of the room and down the hall.

Slipping into the lady’s room and gasping for air from the effort, she turned her hand over to examine her spotless, smooth palm.

‘Too close,’ Sakura thought as she gathered her wits and prepared for the next couple of days wearing a useless band aid; and of pretending it was fine that a man, who would never know that her mother had hoped her daughter would never take after him, was going under a scalpel held by the generation he had saved and damned.

‘Far, far, too close.’

Re: Mutation

Posted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 10:08 am
by GNneko
Loved it! The way you used such an over-used concept and made it interesting and new. Good job!
I have to ask though - Why Japan?

Re: Mutation

Posted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 10:39 am
by AnonymousTypewriter
GNneko wrote:Loved it! The way you used such an over-used concept and made it interesting and new. Good job!
I have to ask though - Why Japan?

Well, for one thing, it's easier to isolate a small island nation than a big one like the United States. But more to the point, this was actually written a few years ago based on a prompt from a friend who was obsessed with Japan at the time. And still is, really. I never did anything with the story aside from show it to him, so I thought I may as well post it here, see what people think of it.

Re: Mutation

Posted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:29 pm
by GNneko
AnonymousTypewriter wrote:
GNneko wrote:Loved it! The way you used such an over-used concept and made it interesting and new. Good job!
I have to ask though - Why Japan?

Well, for one thing, it's easier to isolate a small island nation than a big one like the United States. But more to the point, this was actually written a few years ago based on a prompt from a friend who was obsessed with Japan at the time. And still is, really. I never did anything with the story aside from show it to him, so I thought I may as well post it here, see what people think of it.

Oh, I see. Yeah I suppose that makes sense :)