The Boy stared out the window. The view wasn’t particularly spectacular, but he stared out into the blank expanse of sky before him all the same, just like he did every day. Sliding his finger against the windowsill, he heard the familiar, comforting rasp of metal upon metal and gave a sigh.
He stood up and strode away from the fleeting, tantalising promise of freedom that had swept through his head like a bracing sea breeze, back towards the massive workstation that dominated the centre of the circular room. He stared at the mess of cogs and gears and plasma coils and gave a frustrated sigh. What am I doing here? He thought with an angry shrug.
Just then, he noticed the digital clock embedded on the table. The Boy froze, then exploded into a flurry of movement, yanking out the rolled up section of blue manuscript that lay under a power transformer and a half-deconstructed piston and pulling it open.
The Boy glanced at the jumble of tools and spare parts on his workspace, before carelessly sweeping them aside with his arm, placing the blueprints in their place. He weighed down the edges with some appropriately heavy metal blocks and cogs he had lying around, then hunkered down to pore over the detailed diagrams and annotations.
Immediately, the vision in his left eye flickered and expanded, magnifying and adopting a blue tint. Miniscule metal arms then erupted from the skin around his left eye, bearing aloft small monocle-like objects and bending like small cranes.
‘Hmm,’ mused the Boy, who dutifully ignored the now commonplace transformation of the left side of his body, ‘3 hours until Inspection… challenge accepted!’
He raised his left arm with a reckless smile on his face, the metal surface cracking and splitting into three distinct appendages. The middle one opened up spidery-looking fingers, which flexed experimentally, while the other two ‘arms’ twisted and fractured until a spirit level and the tip of a power drill protruded seamlessly. The Boy grinned, his normal hand snatching up a spanner.
‘Let’s do this!’
The impassive mechanical alarm reverberated through the air, sounding for a minute before falling silent, leaving a tense, quiet in its wake.
The Boy’s right eye flickered upwards to glance at the clock, all the while frantically fitting parts and twisting metal. His arms were a blur of metal and cloth, frantically bending and morphing, a myriad of different tools materialising and vanishing in the span of a few seconds. Finally, he slowly straightened his posture, never breaking his furious rhythm.
He reached up and flicked a stray strand of hair out of his eyes right before a cast iron metal mask constructed itself onto his face. His left arm now only had two branches instead of the previous five or six. With his right arm and one of his left, the Boy picked up two complicated-looking metal blocks and held them together. His remaining hand, twisted aimlessly for a few seconds, before lowering to point at the combined metal parts. The nail elongated slightly, before a bright blue gas flame erupted from the tip.
Moving his finger in regular, even sweeps, the Boy quickly and efficiently welded the two parts together, a sense of satisfaction in every movement.
The Boy, startled by the sudden squawk from the communicator mounted on the wall, leaped straight up, arms and legs akimbo. Hissing, he quickly expelled a quick spurt of liquid nitrogen from his arm to douse the fire that had sprung up when he had moved his gas flame too close to a plasma coil.
‘-Inspection was ten minutes ago, Boy! Where are you?!-’
The Boy leaped over to the communicator and quickly pressed the button with his thumb.
‘I just finished, Master D,’ he gasped breathlessly, ‘I’ll bring it straight up.’
The Boy stood outside the transparent door, his finger hovering over the security pad tentatively. He jammed his finger against the touch sensor while punching in a complicated 16-digit code with his left arm; the adaptive metal growing 11 temporary fingers to help him with his endeavour.
The ‘transparent’ door rippled and seemingly shattered, a million pieces of glittering, reflective glass falling out of place. The Boy did not flinch as the razor-sharp shards danced close to his face. He knew it was all an illusion- a hologram designed to impress those who would come to visit D, the ‘genius’ of Graca. Unfortunately, no-one ever did come to visit the famed benefactor of Graca.
It was likely that down below, on the ground, the Citizens had made up some cock-and-bull story about how D was a criminal or mentally disturbed or such, and prevented any and all visitors that tried to see him. This was the sad truth. D was a prisoner of his own land. Trapped in a gilded cage of his own creation, forced to invent and manufacture brilliant pieces of innovation for a people he hated, the once-lauded ‘genius’ was now reduced to a mere caged bird- a relic that had been a mainstay of Graca for decades… from before the Reform.
The Boy gave a sad smile- his master’s circumstances always brought a tinge of pity and respect to the surface of his emotions, despite the rather negative feelings he secretly harboured towards the harsh taskmaster. He then blinked.
Now, instead of the bustling whirlwind of energy that had been ‘D’ in the illusion, there was only a black shrouded figure sitting morosely at a cluttered desk. He held a small doll in one hand, and was screwing a detached arm back into its original position with an old-fashioned screwdriver, with a handle.
The Boy silently padded over to stand at his shoulder, watching silently, unwilling to break the tense atmosphere.
Finally, after about ten minutes of being ignored by his Master, the Boy cleared his throat impatiently. Immediately, the aging man span around, eyes that still retained sword-like sharpness flicking up to scrutinise the one who had interrupted his work.
‘Boy!’ he rasped, ‘Where were you? Inspection was twenty minutes ago! The Citizens want that Theta Bomb!’
The Boy wordlessly held out his left arm, which immediately opened up, showing a small compartment in which resided the fruits of three hours’ labour. Four pulsing blue cables were connected to the top, providing the fluorescent power coils that veined the metal block with a healthy light.
D snorted in derision upon seeing the weapon of mass destruction, instead simply reaching in and ripping it out of the Boy’s arm. Said Boy winced and hissed as he felt the radium charge cables disconnect from his arm, a terrible cold spreading through the pain receptors in the artificial appendage.
D turned the cuboidal block this way and that in his gnarled hands, inspecting it from all angles. Finally, he gave a vicious-looking smile. Holding the bomb in his hand, he made a vague-looking, twisting motion with his hands. The intricate mass of metal and wire shivered and exploded, tiny constituent parts raining onto the ground like a storm.
‘That,’ snarled D in anger, ‘was pathetic. That Theta Bomb had an 18% chance of misfiring. What have I been teaching you all these years?!’
The old man gripped the Boy by his collar and slammed him against the wall, the aged muscles still possessing iron-like strength. With his free hand, D prodded the immobile boy in the chest with a grimy finger.
‘I found you, Boy, a nameless orphan who mucked up a jetpack joyride. You were going to die, and I saved your life. You were a nobody, and I raised you as my own son and legacy. You lost the entire left side of your body, and I crafted you a new body using my secret techniques. I gave you life, and I can take it away. You belong to me. Your entire existence is a tool for me to use. A tool to get revenge on the Citizens. A tool, just like this.’
D held up the doll, which had suddenly twisted and morphed into a crackling energy transfuser. Holding his charge tight, and utilising the assistance of the metal wall, which had unexpectedly sprouted numerous tentacle-like cables that held the helpless boy immobile, D brought the energy transfuser close to the teen’s face.
‘Remember this, Boy,’ hissed D maniacally, ‘You are mine. You will always be mine.’
And then he pressed the superheated nib against the Boy’s bare right cheek, scratching a line straight down the bare skin, watching the frying flesh cauterise the wound almost instantly.
Blinking in curiosity, he brought the half-doll, half-energy transfuser back and studied the long scratch down the boy’s cheek. It was an ugly black, the surrounding skin a contrasting angry red.
‘Hmmm,’ murmured D, puzzled, ‘Why don’t you scream, Boy?’
The Boy glared at his master through a haze of pain and tears before opening his mouth and spitting a glob of blood and phlegm contemptuously at the vindictive old man in front of him. But even as he completed this action, a wrinkly old hand snapped out and grabbed his jaw, quick as lightning.
‘Ah,’ mused D, ignoring the wet blood tracking down his cheek as he forcefully opened the teen’s mouth. ‘You bound your gums together with wire. Not a bad application of MESTAR. You’ve adapted to the metal well.’
‘You should never have given me it,’ snarled the Boy defiantly, finally deciding to stand up for himself in the face of his master’s cruel and unreasonable treatment of him.
The tiny spool of steel wire that he had used to prevent himself from screaming had now completely unwound itself and was now coiled in a tight-packed mass on top of his tongue. In a fluid movement, the Boy spat at D, the wire uncoiling itself with the movement, a flying spear of bloodied metal.
The wickedly sharp metallic streamer bolted through the air, directly at D’s head. Flicking near his ear, it grazed the right side of his face, creating, ironically, a deep furrow perpendicular to the Boy’s own newly-acquired scar.
But the Boy saw none of this. He reached deep within himself, finding that part in him that controlled the adaptive metal that made up the left side of his body. He found it, and began to manipulate it.
Smiling, he opened his eyes, and roared. Immediately, the metal cables that grew from the wall and held him immobile exploded outwards, flying away in a million shredded pieces of steel.
The Boy stepped forward and rolled his neck, producing an audible crack. It was now obvious what had severed his bonds- several large, curved blades protruded from the left side of his body. But even as the Boy advanced upon D, who had been blown back onto the ground with the force of the wire attack, the metal blades slowly receded into the grey, skin-like surface of his body.
The Boy held out his arm, which lengthened and tapered to a point, a white glow starting to form at the tip. It now looked less like an arm and more like a superheated spear or lance.
‘I guess I am grateful for the help, Master D,’ grinned the Boy maliciously, ‘But please die.’
He jabbed the lance at his fallen master and smiled sadistically as he heard the tell-tale hiss of shrivelling cloth as a hole was rapidly worn in D’s ever-present black cloak. But when D started to chuckle darkly, a vein in the Boy’s face started to twitch.
‘What’s so funny?’ he snarled angrily. ‘You have nothing to laugh about- you’re about to die, you horrid old man!’
With a suddenness that shocked, D leapt up off his back and straight at the Boy, arm outstretched.
The Boy yelped as he recoiled from the unexpected attack. He reflexively raised his arm to protect himself, and in doing so, impaled D straight through the chest, the heated tip of the lance sliding through flesh and cloth, bone and muscle with almost no resistance.
The Boy sat slumped on the wall, the weight of his master pressing down on him. He blinked slowly, trying desperately to comprehend what had just happened. He glanced at the limp figure skewered on his lance and prodded him tentatively with his normal hand.
When the still form did not move, the Boy allowed himself a small smile of triumph. He had always wondered if he had enough guts to actually take the life of the one who had saved him, even if he took into account the extent of his hatred towards him.
‘You brought this on yourself, Master D. maybe if you weren’t so demanding. So cruel. But you know what they say- what comes around goes around,’ he murmured softly as a solitary tear slid down his ruined cheek.
‘You’re a hundred years too early too early to lecture me, damn brat,’ came a rough voice, like sandpaper over a chalkboard.
The Boy’s head snapped up, unbelieving, as the figure transfixed on the metal pole stirred and raised his head. A familiar face smirked dangerously at him, whiskered features held in an animalistic snarl.
‘Wh… what? H…h…how?’ stuttered the Boy, almost incoherently.
‘Hah…did you really think you could kill me? Me, the great D? The Creator, himself? I am the one singlehandedly responsible for improving and sustaining Graca! Without my inventions and technology, those smarmy Citizens would probably still think digital watches are the height of innovation! You think you can extinguish the life of the single greatest existence this world has ever known? With my own technology, as well? You really are a failure as an apprentice!’ growled D, enraged.
With deliberate slowness, he raised his free hand to where the Boy could see it, a single raised palm. Slowly, menacingly, D twisted his palm into a clenched fist. And the Boy immediately felt an excruciating pain permeate his entire being, a pulsing white-hot supernova of sensation that coursed through his veins and boiled his blood. Not even having a line seared into his skin had been this painful. And all D had done was twist his hand. The Boy didn’t understand what was causing this all-encompassing agony. He felt, somewhere, an urge to scream, but then realised he was already doing so- a high-pitched keening that reverberated inside his head, like a roomful of shouting people.
In some half-deranged state, the Boy entertained the thought of muffling his screaming, to put up a tough front to show he wasn’t afraid of the terrifying old man, but when he tried to reach up with his left arm to cover his mouth, he realised with a delayed sense of horror he no longer had a left arm. Or a left leg. And… oh god, even the left side of his face was missing.
D had, utilising his god-like manipulation of synthetic materials, ripped all the MESTAR sustaining the Boy’s life clear from his body.
It was then, through a haze of pain, that the Boy blacked out.
The Boy stood on a cloud, staring into the distance aimlessly. I’ve always wanted to fly. I guess now it’s impossible. Am I dead?
He stared at his very human left arm and sighed. He had always dreamed of escaping D’s prison on a jetpack- the same way he had entered. After his accident, he had almost given up on that dream, but his former master had craftily strung him along like a mindless puppet, luring him with promises of better technology to enhance his flying experience- the sensation of enjoying the sky.
Unfortunately, it was all an elaborate trap. As soon as the Boy had accepted the metal prosthetics into his body, he had stepped into D’s jurisdiction. Reduced to the slave of his saviour, the Boy once again had his dream destroyed.
The Boy woke to the feel of rushing air, and for a moment thought he had actually died and had been granted his life-long wish. But this wish was soon shattered as he took stock of his surroundings. He was standing at the edge of a giant hole in the floating prison’s wall, still lacking most of the left side of his body, but feeling a strange, yet familiar weight on his back.
‘Hello, Boy,’ came the dreaded, rasping voice of D, ‘I have decided to make use of you for one last mission. I’ve programmed a jetpack to launch you straight down into the nexus of the anti-gravitational field, where the bomb I’ve planted in you body will promptly detonate. Probably the most use I’ll ever get out of you. And then, my ‘prison’ will finally fall, and I will regain my rightful place, ruling the Citizens!’
The Boy ignored him and only focused on what he could sense behind him. A jetpack. He smiled at D before launching himself off the precipice, cutting off his master’s triumphant speech. He could feel the jetpack thrusters boosting, but he already knew, that even D’s unnatural dominance over machines could not wrest away control of the MESTAR that had been a part of him for 3 years (even if it were in a slightly different form), not at this distance.
He asserted his authority over the metal and felt it shift and twist, becoming something far more different. Wings.
He flapped his new appendages, gaining altitude, moving away from the anti-gravitational generator below and instead heading for the universal power transmitter, sitting at the very edges of the upper atmosphere. He could feel his breathing beginning to labour, but used some of his last vestiges of strength to create a mini-communicator to shout a few parting words to his former master, staring wide-eyed from below.
‘If I’m going to die, I might as well bring this wretched planet with me! Because it’s in my nature!’
Suddenly, terrible white light blanketed the sky, leaving only the Boy’s parting words.
‘By the way, my name isn’t Boy, it’s Icarus.’
This was something I wrote for the Imagination Creation Western Union Young Writers Competition.
Kevin Tang 10F