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MASK

SYNOPSIS: A masked vigilante traverses a futuristic monarchical society looking to avenge the murder of the woman he cherished. 

Who I am is not important. What I intend to do however is. For years I have watched the tyranny and grotesque malice tear this once proud city apart. But no longer will I stand back and watch this city sink into infinite decrepitude. This change within me began six years ago when I lost somebody truly important to me, now I intend to change the system and right the wrongs. Tonight, I am going to kill someone.

The masked individual walked through the dark streets of Saint-tropolis, each one crowded with individuals eager to sell goods to ensure they had supper that night. The mask covering his face was dull white, black goggles shielding his eyes from view. His outfit was a luxurious suit and tie, while his feet moved silently through the night in the ball room dancing shoes he wore.
The masked individual cut down an alleyway to avoid the police who were searching for atheists. Ever since the revolutionary revolt by the Clergy, the entire planet had been under the immense control of the church. During its first year of office, the Clergy hunted down and murdered over seventy-five million atheists. Any still remaining converted to a religion to ensure their survival. It didn’t matter what religion one preached, as long as it was in existence and involved a higher masculine being having full control over everyone and everything, the church didn’t seem to mind. That is why the masked man had to avoid the officers; he was an atheist, quite possibly the only atheist in the entire world. That made him the single most dangerous threat to the Clergy.
The Clergy had primarily used fear to get into power and they were not afraid to use it to ensure the total respect of the community. If one such religion became too powerful they simply cut it down in size, ensuring equilibrium amongst the people. Those however who found that the murdering of civilians on a daily basis was not the most acceptable method of control stood up against such tyrannical methodology. Such people were almost all but extinct now, the masked individual being one of the last to survive.
He continued to weave in and out of alleyways, before finally reaching the Loud Oyster, one of the most famous taverns in the entire city. He strolled into the dimly lit building with its dark green walls; tables erected on either side of him as he walked past the bar and over to a dark corner where his informant was waiting.
Although the masked figure did not trust Snake Eyes, he had no choice but to use him, he was after all the best snitch in the city. Around his eyes were the tattooed decorations of snake scales, lime green in colour, hence the name, the rest of his person filthy with dirt and grunge. The masked individual sat opposite him, instantly taking a photo out from his breast pocket and shoving it into Snake Eyes’ face.
The image was of an incredibly beautiful young woman. She had rosy red hair and luminescent blue eyes. Her complexion glittered under the light of the photographic flash, her face illuminated under a perfectly constructed smile; her teeth white and straight; her lips moist and warm. What could be seen of the top half of her dress was a white cloven fabric with numerous frills around the neck and seams on the side, her hand perched just under her chin. There was an aurora of innocence about her, something that was extremely rare within this city.
‘Where is she?’ asked the masked man in a deep voice.
‘I don’t know, I swear’ replied Snake Eyes timidly.
‘Cut the crap’ grunted the masked man. ‘You know as well as I that I could have killed you the moment I stepped in here and been gone before your body hit the floor. The only reason you’re alive is because I believe you can help me. The moment I feel you can no longer provide me with the details I require you will become obsolete. Do you understand what I’m saying?’
Snake Eyes nodded fearfully.
‘Good’ responded the masked man. ‘Now let’s try that again, where is she?’
‘I already told you I don’t know!’ cried Snake Eyes. ‘I’m telling you the truth!’
‘Then how about another question and you’d better have me an answer for this’ said the masked man dangerously. ‘Where’s Black?’
‘I don’t know who you are talking about’ said Snake Eyes.
Almost everyone knew who Black was, it was the location of such a man that was the most difficult to discern. Two years ago Black created a brand new religion, a cult really, one that was rather fond of the dark arts, including dark rituals, demonic possession and sacrificial offerings. The Clergy had originally accepted such an ideology, believing it would not be welcomed by the people with such a passion; but they were wrong. His followers had doubled, if not quadrupled in the first few months alone and now even the government was beginning to feel the weight of his presence, something that most religious leaders did not quite enjoy. But Black however did not seem to mind. He however, did have the unfair advantage of being invisible. He had no documentation to prove he even existed; no place of residence; no base of operations. He was a ghost and everybody knew it. That was no doubt one of the most terrifying things about the man; he could come and go as he pleased and take anything and everything that he wished and there was no one that could stop him, or so he thought.
‘I despise liars’ commented the masked man. ‘In a religious world, you do realise that a lie is one of the most heinous sins one can implement? Killing you now would be considered a favor in the eyes of your Lord and Savior.’
‘How about this for a lie!’ shouted Snake Eyes. ‘The girl is dead! You hear me, dead! She was sacrificed to the Gods of whom Black prayed and they bestowed their gifts upon him, turning him into a far more dangerous and wicked being than anyone could have ever imagined.’
‘Liar!’ thundered the masked individual, grabbing Snake Eyes around the throat, beginning to choke the very life out of him before noticing Snake Eyes looking over his left shoulder.
Turning around, the masked man noticed numerous police officers standing behind him, before having a fist thrown into his face. An infinite black was suddenly bestowed upon him, just as he felt hands beginning to go for his mask.
He threw his hands up into the air to prevent them from touching his face, but was suddenly kicked in the jaw, the pain travelling throughout his entire body. He lay motionless on the ground for a second as a bright white light swallowed him whole, before fading to black once more, the sound of mocking laughter being the last thing he ever heard.

Six years later

The masked man awoke the way he had every morning for the past six years; inside a jail cell, his limbs chained to the walls. The interior was comprised entirely out of brick, resembling that of a castle, the type that appeared in the black and white films the clergy used to showcase back when he was on the outside.
Shortly after he had been arrested his captors had attempted to remove his mask and put an identity to his face. However, upon discovering that it had been surgically crafted to his skin they had given up. They didn’t exactly care anyway; they had after all caught the terrorist and made the streets safer. One less atheist on the street made the clergy sleep better at night. Such may seem almost borderline ignorant, but if the Clergy could close their eyes and get a good night’s rest, then the compensation they supplied to their municipals became considerably satisfying.
However, today was different than others, the metallic cell door that appeared to have rusted terribly over time swinging open, two officers removing the chains that had been bound to the masked man’s person for so long. He was quickly led up a cobbled staircase that was made up of the same brick that his cell was to the top most section of the facility.
The masked individual found himself in a brightly lit room overlooking the entire city. There was a great round window on the other side of the white walled room which gave one a perfect view of the amazing metallic-looking civilisation below. A metallic desk was positioned in the centre of the room which had been bolted to the brick floor, many scientific tubes and beverages cooking across the table top, pink and green liquids visible within the vials and glasses.
Standing before him behind the metallic desk was Commander Vurtura, the officer in charge of the city. He wore a luxurious black suit with red cuffs down the side, stirring a cup of tea he held in his grasp. His face was considerably well padded and his eyes were a black in colour as though there was not a shroud of emotion behind them. His hair was gelled back in a thick ointment that made his hair shine under the light, a smug look upon his face that just made the masked man want to punch his lights out.
‘For how long were you out terrorising the streets of my fair city?’ questioned the Commander, looking directly at the masked man, his yellow hair shining under the rising sun.
‘I don’t think that such terminology is in fact an accurate way to judge my activities’ stated the masked man. ‘I was attempting to free those who deserved saving from the tyranny of the governmental body. The people should be given a right to choose whether they worship a God or not, not have that choice made for them under the threat of exile or public execution. However, if one is too stupid to see that, then such a person is not deserving of my time and can be left in the hell that they made.’ The masked man shook his head before growling under his breath. ‘On top of that I don’t like riddles, so how about you get to the part where you tell me why the hell I am out of my cell or go put me back in it.’
‘Very well’ stated the Commander, placing his tea onto the table. ‘Straight to business, I like that in a man. How old was the young woman you failed to save?’
‘If she were still alive she would be celebrating her twenty-seventh birthday next week’ commented the masked man sadly. ‘Why?’
‘I thought you may enjoy extracting your vengeance on the man who stole her life’ said the Commander. ‘The terrorist codenamed Black has resurfaced. We fear he intends to strike a significant blow to our regime and we believe you would be the perfect man for the job.’
‘Are you saying you would just let me go?’ questioned the masked individual. ‘That does not seem anything like you at all Commander.’
‘Nobody is forcing a gun to you here, Mask’ said Vurtura dangerously, disliking the man’s tone. ‘Is that what I should call you, Mask? Does that at all seem appropriate? After all, a man without a face is a man without an identity. And a man without an identity simply does not exist. And if you do not exist, then you haven’t got yourself a name.’
‘That was beautiful’ said Mask. ‘Did you spend your entire morning rehearsing that just for me? I must say I am flattered.’
‘Do you not remember who it is you are talking too?’ thundered Vurtura. ‘Guards, please remind this scumbag who it is that I am!’
‘Yes sir’ said both the men holding Mask in place before both hitting him across the back of the legs with great metallic clubs that they gladly detached from their belts.
‘Now, let us try that again’ said Vurtura. ‘Do you wish to take the opportunity I am handing to you? This is of course a silver platter opportunity, not some run of the mill concoction.’
‘Where do I find him?’ questioned the masked man.
‘In truth we have no idea where he’ll be’ stated the Commander. ‘We always assumed you were considerably street smart. I’m sure a man such as yourself will have no problem in finding his location. Now, if you’d just follow Morrison, my police chief, he’ll escort you down to the nurse’s station where we can prep you for the assignment.’
Upon concluding his sentence, a rather wide individual made his way over to the masked man, before escorting him from the room. Morrison, as already noted was rather wide all over. His face was wide, his belly was wide and so too were his arms, his legs and his feet, the shoes on such gargantuan feet looking to have been specially made. He wore a dark blue suit with a metallic club strewn across his shoulder, a smug, pretentiously egotistical look tattooed upon his face. He had beady black eyes that darted around in a paranoid manner, a large hooked nose that looked to have been broken many times before and greasy hair that was beginning to become rather absent atop of his head, the hair that was located on the left side of his head being brushed over the top to make it seem as though he still retained a proud head of hair. There were after all no bald leaders within the city and it would look rather strange if he were the odd one out.
A few minutes later Mask found himself on the ground floor of the facility, the entire sector covered in grunge, the pipes above leaking fluids onto the floor. Morrison stayed outside as an officer escorted the masked man into a brightly lit operating theatre, a young woman in a white nurse’s outfit standing before him. Her skin was almost a dark green in colour, presumably from spending too much time in this dungeon of a place and was moreover heavily blotched as though from having a terrible case of acne when she was younger. If she did not have enough character with these two rather powerful visual impressions, she also spoke in a heavy Romanian accent.
‘You must be my patient’ beamed the nurse, sounding the way a vampire would in one of those ancient Hollywood classics. ‘If you’ll just lie back onto the table we can get started on inserting the tracking device into your skull. Standard operating procedure I’m afraid.’
‘Nobody mentioned anything about tracking devices’ grunted the masked individual.
Under a second later the officer who had been standing guard was thrown out through the doors into the hallway; police Chief Morrison unfastening the pistol attached to his hip, hurrying into the operating theatre to see what the commotion was about, before a fist was shoved into his throat. He collapsed to the ground, his hands to his neck whilst his breathing came out in numerous wild gasping sounds.
‘But wait!’ cried the nurse, ‘you are yet to receive your tracking implant!’
‘I don’t need one’ said the masked individual with a nod. ‘Now, please excuse me for I have an escape to promulgate.’ He made his way down the corridor as quickly as he could, his footsteps not making but a sound as he moved back up the way he had come, just as the sirens began to ring through the entire compound.
‘Alert, alert’ cried the voice of the nurse over the emergency frequency. ‘Prisoner escape in progress. I repeat prisoner escape in progress. Masked man attempting to flee underground laboratory! Security teams report in immediately!’
A couple of minutes later Mask hid in-between two red heating conduits that were located on the left side of the wall as a group of security officers hurried past him, each with rifles cradled under their arms. He sighed to himself upon the realisation he had not being detected before walking back out again.
‘I can’t believe this is happening!’ cried a voice that Mask knew only too well as Vurtura began to make his way around the corner with a security guard walking beside him as escort.
In a flash, Mask threw out his fist and knocked the escort out, his body falling limply to the floor, assault rifle collapsing by his side.
‘Ah, Commander’ said Mask in a dry voice as he looked up at the man who had kept him prisoner for the past six years.
‘I can have men down here in three minutes!’ said the Commander with a flicker of worry on his face.
‘You’ll be dead in three minutes so the security teams will have nothing left to protect’ said Mask, smiling to himself, unbeknownst to the commander who could not see his face.
‘I was going to let you out’ said Vurtura. ‘Is that not compensation enough?’
‘Oh, you mean the tracking device in my brain?’ laughed Mask. ‘Yeah, real great, top bloke you are. I’ll be sure to take that under advisement’ he concluded before punching the commander in the face. With that, he dragged the clothes off from the guard on the floor and proceeded to place them upon his person, before hiding the now relatively naked body of the escort in-between the heating conduits.
Mask then stepped out and continued to make his way out the way he had come, just as a security team came running towards him. ‘Help the Commander!’ he cried. ‘I’m going after the masked vigilante’ he said, the guards moving in the direction of Vurtura as the masked individual made his way towards the nearest exit.

During his time in prison, the masked individual had never forgotten any region of the city, which is what made it so easy to rediscover the residence of Snake Eyes. He remembered the snitch was housed on the thirty- second floor of an atrocious apartment block that stood at the far corner of the city like a discarded piece of rubbish.
Taking the elevator up to the intended floor, the masked man stepped off onto the landing and moved down the red coloured wooden hallway in search of Snake Eyes’ apartment, picking the lock soundlessly upon locating the correct room and creeping inside.
A fireplace rich with flame illuminated the dingy apartment as the masked vigilante crept across the wooden floorboards and into the bedroom of Snake Eyes, whose apartment was kept in the same manner as himself; in squalor.
His bedroom had the same red walls, with one exception. Just like Commander Vurtura had a large round window overlooking the city, so too did Snake Eyes. His however did not seem to have been cleaned by the same individual as the one who had being assigned to the one in the Commander’s office, and judging by the look of the place the maid had been fired long ago.
The masked man reached down and ripped the terrorised Snake Eyes out of bed, the red sheets falling away below him as he was dragged to his feet by the scruff of his neck.
‘You’re supposed to be in prison!’ cried Snake Eyes.
‘Oh, I know’ smiled Mask. ‘But they let me out for good behavior’ he continued, before grabbing Snake Eyes by the collar and pinning him against the great circular window that was suspended above his bed. Now, with a proper opportunity to look upon the design of the window in question, Mask began to make out other additional encryptions that were placed around the side of the window. Staring intently at them, Mask came to the conclusion that they were Christian images, each of which was in the shape of an angel that held either a trombone or a crossbow, with fluffy white wings attached to their backs that kept them suspended in mid air.
‘How sweet’ grunted Mask. ‘You came prepared. Angels placed above you during your time of death. Now why did I not think of that before my arrival? I after all had six long years in prison to think all about this one moment and I forgot to think of that one detail.’
‘Please!’ cried Snake Eyes in a pleading tone. ‘Please, I beg of you, don’t kill me. I am not worth killing am I?’
‘What is with the Christian images?’ continued the masked individual. ‘I thought you were a Muslim?’
‘Oh, I am sweet masked man, I am!’ cried Snake Eyes, Mask only tightening his hands around Snake Eyes’ throat even tighter still.
‘I don’t think you know what you are’ growled Mask, ‘how can one trust somebody who does not even know who or what they are.’
‘Believe me when I say, you can trust me!’ cried Snake Eyes.
‘And all of this red’ proceeded the masked man, looking around his surroundings. ‘Reminds me a lot of what blood used to look like.’
‘Believe me when I tell you that blood has not changed much in the six years that you have been away’ said Snake Eyes. ‘It still looks very much the same to me.’
‘You would know wouldn’t you?’ growled Mask. ‘You spilt enough of it yourself.’
‘No, no I didn’t!’ wailed Snake Eyes. ‘No I didn’t!’
‘Not in person you didn’t’ said Mask.
‘Not ever!’ screamed Snake Eyes.
‘Liar!’ roared the masked man. ‘The smell of your slanderous lies is almost as repulsive as the smell of your rancid flesh. All of those lives you destroyed by ratting them out to the police, giving away the information on every single atheist you could find. Just to ensure that they did not find the one you were trying to hide all this time! You are accountable for all of these lives, every last one of them!’
‘I protected your identity to ensure you would not be found’ pleaded Snake Eyes. ‘When they found you six years ago, that was just sheer coincidence!’
Mask remembered the mocking laughter he had heard as he blacked out six years ago, knowing full well that coincidence was not one of the things that happened that day. ‘You and I both know that we are not talking about me here! We are talking about you! You are the atheist who you have hidden away for so long!’
‘Okay!’ cried Snake Eyes. ‘Okay!’ he screamed once more at what appeared to be the top of his lungs.
‘Scream all you want’ said Mask. ‘Not a soul will ever hear you. Nobody is going to put their neck out for somebody who goes around stabbing others in the back for pure entertainment.’
‘Please!’ shouted Snake Eyes. ‘I beg of you not to kill me. You aren’t though, right?’ he asked with a weak grin.
Mask did not bother to answer his question, but rather decided to ask one of his own. ‘Where can I find Black?’ he asked dangerously.
‘I don’t know’ cried Snake Eyes in a frightened squeak.
‘Let’s not play this game again’ cried the masked man, punching Snake Eyes in the stomach, before repeating the procedure. ‘I know you have his location. It’s just a question of whether you tell me now, or after I cut you into a thousand different pieces.’
‘I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you!’ cried Snake Eyes. ‘He’s giving a speech tomorrow night at the old North Plaza. There will be a great rally there. It shall be pretty hard to miss.’
The masked man let Snake Eyes fall to the floor. ‘Do you still keep that sniper rifle of yours in that safe behind this hideous picture?’ he asked, standing in front of a grotesquely over weight woman trapped inside a painting. Snake Eyes nodded, the masked man throwing the painting to the floor, entering the code he had recited into the safe which instantly swung open, the man dragging out a briefcase before beginning to leave.
He stopped suddenly, placing the briefcase on the ground, grunting ‘and one more thing.’
He hurried back to Snake Eyes, throwing him against the glass window once more. ‘Remember six years ago when I told you one day you would become obsolete?’ Snakes Eyes nodded fearfully. ‘That day is now’ said the masked man, picking Snake Eyes up and throwing him through the window, the snitch screaming as he fell to the street below.

One night later the masked man found himself in yet another ravaged apartment block, on one of the top most floors with a perfect view of the adjacent building. Removing the sniper rifle components from the briefcase and beginning to piece them together, he attached the silencer to the breach before placing a pen to a piece of paper and writing a note that explained his actions.
As he did so he heard the cheers of those outside, picking up the rifle and making his way to the window.  He pulled back the blinds before looking through the scope at the stand that had been erected in front of a rundown building. Numerous white pillars were posted around the front that looked to be the only things holding the aging concrete monster up. A symbol was inscribed into the centre of the roof of the building, one which had been used since the initiation of the Clergy as the ruling parliament. 
Suddenly, Black made his way out onto the stage, holding out his hands to embrace the crowd. He was dressed in a black uniform, a white trilby perched atop his head; his face, as always when he was seen out in public being shielded from view. To the crowd he may have looked like a saviour, but to the masked individual he looked nothing short of a monster.
He watched Black take the podium, clearing his throat, the chanting of the crowd dying down, the masked man depressing the trigger as this occurred, one single bullet being launched from the rifle which spun in mid air, descending towards Black. Upon connecting with the flesh that was Black’s face, it completely pulverised the entire head of the creature the masked vigilante had dreamed of killing for six years now. He sat back inside the apartment as the body of Black fell limply to the ground outside, blood spurting uncontrollably out from the wound as cries of protest and howls of pain dominated the surrounding area.
Taking a deep breath the masked man laid his head against the wall behind him, a look of contempt hidden away under all of the fabric that shielded his face from view. ‘That was for you Charlotte’ he said. ‘That was for you.’

GHOST

Synopsis: A synthetic super soldier, accompanied by a team of space marines, goes on a suicide mission to assassinate a renegade militarised leader. 

 ‘I lost my entire team. It was then, under the fluorescent moons and the tranquil stars that it happened; I truly became a ghost. Absent of life, love and soul. Then, as I felt something inside me wither and die, I felt nothing at all – but pain.’

August 10th, 2291, 15:47p.m
Space Station Acquilous, orbiting planet Morta

‘We have an assignment that requires your immediate attention’ barked Commander Frankes as his deployment team stood to attention before him, each dressed in dark blue military uniforms.
His face was heavily lined from age, his eyes looking weary yet still full of life, with a massive scar placed across his left eye that made its way to the side of his mouth.
‘You will descend to the planet under the cover of an asteroid bombardment and eliminate renegade parliamentarian Joseph Welsh. We have tracked him to an isolated part of the planet, but numerous enemy troops have been detected in the area. Safe to say this is a covert exercise. If you are spotted, you are subsequently on your own. You do however, have a late arrival to your squad’ continued Frankes as Captain Rawlings grunted ‘perfect.’
‘And this new addition we might add is a synthetic’ said Frankes, the team breaking into an argumentative uproar.
‘But sir, the synthetic program was disbanded’ said Church in a Spanish accent. ‘They were believed to be dangerous.’
‘They were bred to be dangerous’ explained Frankes as the synthetic dressed in full body armour which shone under the pale light of the fluorescent moons outside the station  walked out beside him. A metallic helmet with a glistening visor prevented all from seeing the new addition’s face.
‘A fully operational biologically augmented super soldier in the flesh!’ cried Ross as though all of his dreams had just come true at the sight of the individual before him.
‘Don’t get too attached’ grunted Rawlings out from the corner of his mouth, his eyes narrowing as he spoke. ‘He’ll only be with us on this one operation before he gets shipped out to the other side of the universe, right?’ he asked, giving his commanding officer a dirty look as Frankes nodded at him. ‘Good riddance I say’ continued Rawlings with an angry grunt. ‘Synthetics are trouble and that is the one thing that we do not need on this operation.’
‘You speak as though from experience’ said Church. ‘Speak your mind with us boss.’
‘I worked with a synthetic on one of my first operations back when I was with a former squad’ grunted the Captain with a facial expression that clearly signified he did not want to be re-living such a memory. ‘We were tasked to take out a nuclear reactor that was being used by pirates to fuel the battle cruiser they were using to threaten the local planetary settlements. However, during the mission we were spotted and forced to lay down cover fire. The synthetic managed to successfully enter the reactor whilst we created a diversion and planted the explosive charge. Although this could be seen as a decisive victory for us, it certainly was not for me. I lost my entire team that day and that synthetic did not show an ounce of emotion when it happened. He did not flinch, he did not break; he did not say anything. He just moved on with his life.’ Rawlings took a deep breath before proceeding onwards. ‘True, they are good to have in a battle, but they are completely unreliable when it comes to complex human feelings. They simply just don’t have ‘em. They are cold and unemotional. Basically, they are walking, talking ghosts.’
‘Introduction’s all around’ smiled Frankes, interrupting the Captain before he had the opportunity to continue. ‘This is Captain Rawlings’ he said, nodding at a man with graying hair whose eyes were immersed in the colour black. His nose was oddly positioned upon his face, looking as though it had been broken numerous times in the past and had been quickly repaired on the battlefield by a corpsman rather than an actual trauma surgeon.  
‘Church’ he noted, indicating a short female with dark flowing hair, a scar over her right eye. Even with this imperfection she still looked beautiful, her lips having a delicate shine to them. She appeared like all women were meant to; gorgeous and gentle, but underneath all of that you could tell there was a distinct danger lurking beneath her skin in the thing you could have once called a soul. It was her eyes that gave her away. They looked as though she had seen an awful lot in her time as a soldier; seeing things that nobody should ever have to; the kind of things that can alter ones perception of reality forever.
‘Tommbes’ he said, nodding at a giant black man with a shaven scalp. His skin was a light brown in colour and he had an overly large forehead. His eyes seemed rather small in comparison to the rest of his face, but unlike the other team members he looked more like a gentle giant rather than a heavily trained killing machine.
‘And Ross’ he said, pointing at a shorter male with white eyes. His hair too was the exact same colour, with a great, toothy smile plastered across his face. He looked more like a comedian than an actual soldier.
‘The code name given to your new synthetic team member is Ghost’ concluded Frankes.
‘Sounds appropriate’ muttered Rawlings under his breath as Frankes gave him a look that suggested he was through with the commentary on the subject of the synthetic super soldier.
‘I would have expected more from you Rawlings’ said Frankes in a stern tone of voice. ‘A person like you does not become squad commander lightly. So how about you quit all of your whining and mutterings and speak your mind out loud for all to hear.’
Rawlings looked at his team who each shrugged and moved their bodies in odd positions as though the each of them were at a loss for words.  ‘Great’ grunted Rawlings, finding himself in the one position he did not wish to be – alone, in a room filled with his fellow comrades. ‘No offence sir, but I don’t need a babysitter’ grunted Rawlings.
‘You don’t have one’ shot back Frankes. ‘The synthetic will assassinate the target; you just need to keep ‘im alive.’
The team looked about to explode into a confrontational argument once more before Frankes barked ‘that’s an order! Now move out!’
With that, the team made their way down the hall to where numerous pods were positioned across the walls, each soldier entering their assigned pod before being jettisoned from the station. They flew through the cold darkness of space, a great asteroid field orbiting around the turquoise and jade coloured planet.
Whilst passing through the sea of asteroids, Rawlings’s pod was suddenly without warning clipped by a small meteorite fragment. Smoke began to protrude from the engines as his oxygen supply became grossly limited, his vessel going off course by a few degrees before plowing into a large piece of rock. The pod exploded on impact, his body flying out into the cold blackness of space.
Church cried out in anger as she saw what happened, the remaining pods being pulled in by the planet’s gravitational field towards the surface below.

August 10th, 2291, 16:29p.m
Surface of planet Morta

Church’s pod fell open as she crumpled to the moist ground beneath her, rising to her feet with a groan as she held her aching head. She looked at the luscious rainforest canopy surrounding her, taking out her Personal Data Assistant and scanning for the nearest team members. Picking up her sub-machinegun from the ground she slowly began to hurry in the appropriate direction.
Around her were plants; all of which were the likes that she had never seen, many comprised of colours that she had never believed plants could ever be made from.
Travelling for a few minutes, Church managed to discover Ross beside a glistening swamp. ‘Have you seen Tommbes?’ questioned Church. ‘His signal is coming from somewhere around here.’
‘Somebody get me out of here!’ cried out a muffled voice, Church turning to face the swampy lake before her. Tommbes’ pod was located in its centre, the suction slowly pulling the pod under as both Church and Ross looked at one another.
‘I’m not going in there’ said Church, folding her arms.
‘Who pulls me out if I get stuck?’ retorted Ross, just as a crunching sound was heard behind them, both soldiers pointing their firearms in the direction of the noise.
The synthetic appointed to their team suddenly came crashing through the undergrowth, sniper rifle in hand as the soldier took one look at Tommbes’ pod, before strolling straight into the swamp. Grabbing hold of the pod’s door, the synthetic ripped it from its hinges, throwing it across the swamp before picking up Tommbes by the scruff of the neck and throwing him onto dry land.
‘Did we all make it?’ cried out Tommbes as he crumpled to the ground.
‘No’ said Church mournfully. ‘We lost Rawlings.’
‘The mission is our only priority’ said the synthetic in a deep throaty voice, walking out from the swamp and swinging the rifle over the broad shoulders of its person, beginning to walk deeper into the wilderness after accessing the necessary co-ordinates from its PDA.
The remaining team members watched the synthetic, before Church began to gradually nod, now being bumped up the chain to the level of commanding officer of the team after the death of their beloved Captain, the each of them beginning to follow the synthetic super soldier.

After what felt like an hour, the team came to a standstill overlooking a cliff edge, the perfect vantage point to assassinate the target as the synthetic set up the sniper rifle and crouched down low, looking through the scope.
‘I hope he knows what he’s doing’ grunted Church.
‘Hey, he saved my life’ said Tommbes. ‘The least you could do is cut the guy some slack.’
‘I only meant it in relation to the mission’ shot back Church. ‘It would suck to have him spotted and killed this far into enemy territory.’
‘Were it so easy’ grunted the synthetic, listening in to every word they said whilst zooming in with the scope on the target’s location.
A large militarian outpost was positioned a few kilometres away, a menagerie of grey metallic buildings situated across the encampment with numerous soldiers patrolling the exterior of the installation. In the centre of the base was the parliamentarian they had been sent to neutralise; addressing the military formation standing before him as they cheered in appreciation for what he was saying. He had a dark moustache covering his upper lip and wore a blue militarian hat atop of his head, screaming at the top of his lungs whilst thrusting his hands in the air like a militarian dictator.
Squeezing the trigger, the synthetic fired a single round, the bullet after a few short seconds slamming into the head of the target. Striking him with more force than a magnum pointblank, the parliamentarian’s head was pulverised beyond recognition, blood showering the soldiers before him as an alarm was raised. Ghost quickly swung the rifle over its shoulder, the four soldiers beginning to pull out.

It wasn’t ten minutes later as they were escaping that Tommbes was suddenly clipped in the leg by a bullet, falling to the dense undergrowth as he groaned in pain, blood seeping from the wound. The others went to ground, attempting to find the enemy. With one shot, Ghost neutralised the enemy combatant. Moving towards Tommbes, Ghost was suddenly shot in the head, spinning around and ripping off the damaged helmet, throwing it to the ground before drawing a pistol, the team shocked by what they saw.
Standing before them was a blonde haired woman, her facial features surprisingly smooth, her eyes an ocean blue in colour which were instantly filled with fury as she fired on her attacker who crumpled to the ground. Ross made his way out into the open to help Tommbes, a bullet connecting with his head as blood profusely spilled out everywhere, his body falling over backwards.
‘We need immediate cover fire!’ cried out Ghost, her voice being silky and feminine, no longer the animalistic growl which had being heard through the helmet. Ghost helped Tommbes to his feet as the remaining three soldiers opened fire on the enemy combatants who were surrounding them. Bullets flew through the forest as trees became pulverised, the cries of animals running for cover echoing through the brush.
Ghost was hit in the chest by a round, the bullet ricocheting off from her armored suit as another bullet hit Tommbes in the neck, blood spurting out from his jugular as he collapsed onto the ground with a sickening cry of pain.
Ghost continued to fire rounds from her rifle, removing the empty clip and shoving in a new one, watching the enemy fall like flies before her as bullets were continuously released from the breach of her weapon. As the enemy converged on their position and continued to be depleted, Church thought for a second that they might be able to hold out long enough for a transport vessel to evacuate them to safety. But this hope of hers however was instantaneously destroyed as a mortar slammed into the ground beside her, blasting the landscape into oblivion as her world turned to black.

August 10th, 2291, 22:04p.m
Surface of planet Morta

Church lay in the embrace of Ghost’s arms, blood flowing gently out from her torso as she tried to raise her head. ‘Don’t move’ said Ghost firmly. ‘I’ve called in air support. They will come and pick us up in the next few minutes. Just hold on.’
Church looked up at Ghost, her features scarred with a few cuts and bruises, but ultimately she seemed to be in perfect working order. Church again attempted to raise her head, getting a glimpse of her body, one of her legs having being completely blown off in the blast. Pieces of flesh and the remnants of veins were all that remained of a once proud limb, the blood being stemmed by a health pack that Ghost had apparently used whilst she had been unconscious. Church lay back onto the ground and groaned in agony, looking up at the dark sky above. ‘Ghost, look at the stars’ said Church. ‘I never realised, but they all look so beautiful.’
‘Don’t talk’ replied Ghost.
‘Your codename, Ghost, what does it mean?’ asked Church.
‘It was a name, assigned to me at the moment of my initiation into the synthetic program’ replied Ghost. ‘All synthetics are given an identifiable name upon being recommended for combat duty.’ She said such lines as though reading them off a script.
‘I’m sorry we couldn’t protect you’ said Church. ‘We should have done better. But ultimately, what did you think of us, our performances on the field?’
‘You fought and died with valour, the way marines should’ answered Ghost. ‘You’re a soldier.’
‘And you’re a ghost, aren’t you?’ noted Church as Ghost looked at her in surprise. ‘That’s why you were given the name because of how cold and unemotional you are in the making of every decision.’
‘Don’t talk’ replied Ghost. ‘Conserve your strength.’
‘I won’t need it’ said Church, Ghost looking down at her in shock. ‘You know as well as I that I won’t make it.  But you will and you will need all the strength you have for what I am going to ask of you. I want you to put aside all of your training and your overwhelming strength and promise me, that you will try to do the bravest and most daring thing of all; that you will try to do what we no longer can – that you will live, for us, the way any human should.’ With her last breath Church fell backwards into Ghost’s arms, her eyes rolling back into her head as she lay motionless in the presence of the synthetic.
As Ghost looked down on her, she felt a tear well up in her eye and fall down her cheek as she laid Church’s body to rest on the ground. She tore a cluster of flowers out from the ground and placed them onto Church’s chest, moving her deceased fingers into a cupped position atop of them. She looked remarkably at peace.
Over the radio Ghost heard a voice say ‘we will reach the extraction point in t-minus two minutes’ as Ghost rose to her feet, a feeling she had never felt before welling up inside her. Perhaps it was a long lost figment of humanity that had once been with her before her instigation into the synthetic program. Perhaps it was an incredibly strong emotional backlash from the words that Church had just said to her, words which had hit home; had hit hard. It was uncertain where such a feeling was coming from. All Ghost knew was that the feeling was there; and it was tearing a hole right through her.
Taking a small red container out from a pouch on her back, she gripped it tightly in both hands, remembering what Frankes had said to her;
‘If you or your team are captured, use this. It’s a miniature nuke, which will completely eradicate you, your team, and anyone else in the vicinity for a few thousand miles. We can’t allow any of you to fall into enemy hands. But you must promise me that none of your team members find out about this. If they knew they were going on a suicide mission, none of them would have signed up for it.’
Ghost swallowed as she spoke into the radio. ‘I lost my entire team’ she began, taking a few steps forward.

‘Ghost, what the hell are you doing?’ cried a voice over the radio after she had finished speaking, hearing the sound of enemy reinforcements converging on her position. Taking off the gauntlet on her right hand, she pressed her palm onto the screen of the device which instantly registered her fingerprints and instigated the weapon. ‘I’m going home’ she said, just as an explosion rocked the entire planet, the world of Morta descending into silence.