Milky… warm… sticky… like amniotic fluid, all over. In the nurturing cocoon of the womb, each beat of your heart is like a flash of light across the universe. Has life always felt this way? Doesn’t matter as long as it stays this way forever. So warm, so peaceful… you could start sucking your thumb right now. The thought makes you crack a smile – OW! That’s not right – your mouth hurts. And come to think of it, your back and your neck and your arms, they’re actually all kind of sore too. What kind of a dream were you having?
You try to roll over, fetch a sip of water, but something’s wrong with that too. Did you fall asleep sitting up? Not another synthahol bender blackout, you hope. You swore never again last time… but then again you swore the same thing every time before.
Dried and crusty, you peel your eyes open. Bloodshot eyes blur into focus, straining to make out a familiar landmark, but you don’t recognize where you are at all. You’re sitting at some sort of steel desk/chair combo and however it was you passed out there you sure did in a real uncomfortbale position – arms and legs all twisted backwards – no wonder you’re sore all over. Everything’s still so fuzzy you could almost close your eyes again but you know you have to get up and stretch, you have to get up and get your bearings I mean where the fuck are you after all?
You try to bring your arms in front of you to pry yourself off this school chair… but you can’t. It’s only at this point that you realize your wrists and ankles are locked into cold metal restraints. What in the holy fuck?
Now that your adrenaline is pumping your vision begins to clear, looking to your sides you see you’re not the only one in here, there are people all around, but like you they’re all strapped into a desk. Your eyes dart around, frantically looking for answers, when finally you notice a plaque hanging over the video whiteboard in the front of the room, a plaque bearing the dreaded symbols of the Lonestar shield and star. As the rest of the class begins to stir, the air fills with groggy groans, and with your heart now in your stomach you groan too.
You try to retrace your last memories – where you were and what you were doing before getting here, before you were royally fucked, but suddenly a jolt of lightning, burning like a ring of fire, courses around your neck snapping you wide the fuck awake. Someone shrieks in pain – or was that you shrieking involuntarily?
The video whiteboard in the center of the room hums to life, glowing a bright, headache-inducing white for a split second before beginning to transmit a video feed. You are greeted by a pug ugly face, scowling, pudgy and balding, slicked with a translucent coating of grease.
With a throaty gargle he clears the mucus from his throat and quickly resumes his contemptuous scowl, his beady eyes set dead center as if to pierce a hole through the back of the room, never moving, not even once to look at you. “Listen up shitheels, cause I’m only going to explain this once,” he barks. “First off I want to make one thing crystal clear: It’s taking every ounce of willpower I’ve got left just to keep myself from blowing chunks right now. The lot of you make me fucking sick. Every neuron in my sizeable brain is begging to flip off this feed and order my men to haul you away to one of our secret gulags – and I WOULD, if my hands weren’t tied. Higher ups got other plans for you though, they also got their heads up their fucking asses.”
“I’m about to give you guys the biggest gift you’ve gotten in your miserable shitstain lives: a real fucking job. And you selfish pricks aren’t even gonna thank me either! See that’s the problem with you punks – you’ve been born into too much freedom you think ‘Why work when I can just take?’ Well the solution to that problem is clear: remove the freedom, remove the problem. Your neck might still be stinging from the taste of bondage I gave you a moment ago. Molded to your neck is a multi-function control band. This puppy is packed to the brim with sensors and a DNI that will keep us informed of all your actions and thoughts. I know some of you are a little slow on the uptake, so we’ll do show rather than tell. Imagine your hands wrapping around my throat, bet you sick fucks would like that?”
Your rebellious nature compels you to defy his order and think of anything else but what he wants, but with little resistance you do as he commands, and fuck it he IS right after all, you’d like nothing more than to pop his skull off his neck right now. But as soon as you think those thoughts, that searing burn of current coursing through the flesh around your neck returns, and this time that’s not all, the band around your neck begins to expand, cutting off the blood supply to your brain. Within seconds you are on the verge of passing out, when the band finally retracts and relents.
“And I don’t think I need to mention the plastic explosives either. We’ve got you cocksuckers by your taint hairs, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll seep through your thick skulls that honest work can be met with honest rewards. As I said the higher ups have got plans for you, a little operation they’ve named – SAINT’S ASCENSION – we were ordered to scrounge up some gutter trash that could do our dirty work for us, it was only too easy for us to drug you or gas you in your sleep.”
At this time you finally notice, tucked away in the background of the video feed, there is a digital clock, it reads August 14th, but the last thing you remember it was Friday, the 10th – what have these pigs been doing to you? The more you begin to understand what has transpired the closer you try to observe this unnamed cop to suss out any extra intent from him, but there’s nothing there. Not once has he looked right at you, or addressed anyone specifically.
The talking head continues, “The rules are simple: you leave Stillwater – you die, you think anything we don’t want you to – you’re getting a visit from the fainting fairies, try and kill a mook or a cop – you’ll feel Zeus’ thunder in your blood. Complete your tasks as we command and your criminal record will be expunged. And with that pesky element of choice removed, with some luck society may actually get some use out of you instead of just cleaning up your messes, though I think it’d be a fucking miracle if you did anything other than get yourselves geeked.”
The video feed ends, and dim lights turn on in the room. The room seems very much like a lecture room adorned with Lonestar insignias. You also see two guards in the corner that were previously obscured by the darkness. They are wearing some sort of powered MilSpec armor you’ve never seen before, they’re Lonestar Blue, with shields on the epaulettes and left breast.
A door at the front of the room swings open, flooding it with the bright lights outside. Through the blinding light you can see it’s another guard in the same armor at the door. Through a voice scrambler he begins to speak and calls forth three groups of convicts.
As these groups climb into unmarked transport vans, their neck bands tighten and everyone passes out.