Chapter 1: Dawn of a New Era

She stood there gazing into her reflection in the window. The sky was dark as cracks of lightning forked across the sky in a dazzling array of light and color. Was it a sign or an omen of things to come?

None of this mattered. They were close now. She could hear them shuffling in the next room. It was now or never. Like a wild animal she had been held against her will for far too long. Freedom was the only thing on her mind now and she knew that failure was not an option.

Two large men both dressed in security officer attire entered the room. This was the first time they had any contact with her and little did they know that it would also be the last.

One of the guards stood a muscular 6 foot tall with a burly woodsman like beard while the other stood just less than 5’10 and seemed a little overweight.

"So this is her, eh?" the larger guard scoffed as he reached for his utility belt grabbing what looked like handcuffs. She noticed these handcuffs where different. They had a reddish glow and seemed to be alive with some sort of advanced technology.

"Yea that’s her. I heard that she doesn’t say much." the second guard replied.

There was definitely something different about this girl. Her indigo colored eyes were a clear indicator of this. She instinctively knew that she had to act fast as time was running out and that once those handcuffs went on she would lose what little opportunity she had.

As the security guards continued to close in on her, a thunderous clap was heard outside. The storm was closer now. This was the perfect chance, the perfect opportunity. The young girl turned and faced the guards. Just then the eerie glow of the night sky lit up the room like a strobe light.

The girl’s eyes burned a bright indigo and in an instant the lights went out. Did the storm cause this or did she have something to do with it?

The larger guard jumped back having glanced at the girls eyes for a brief moment.

"Did. Did you see that?"

"Getting a bit anxious there Robert?" the other guard teased.

"Did you see her eyes?" Robert was a little shaken as if he had seen something unnatural.

"Damn it Robert. It’s just a storm."

As the two went back and forth, they failed to realize that the young girl had positioned herself in an attack posture behind a chair. She knew that this was the moment she had been waiting for and she knew that this was her one chance, her only chance of escaping.

Before they could say anymore, the girl flung the chair at them with such velocity that it knocked them both down. The officers hit the ground hard. The young girl stood there for a brief second making sure that both guards where subdued. She searched the one named Robert and found keys to the compound, then worked her way to the front of the room. She turned around with a soft look in her eyes as the light from outside flashed her silhouette against the wall.

“What have I done?” She whispered to herself.

She opened the door ever so carefully as to ensure that there weren’t any other threats near. The hall way was dimly lit as she weaved her way through. As she turned the corner she heard voices coming from another hallway.

"Sound the alarm. She’s escaped" one of the men said in a frantic and anxious tone.

“The alarm won’t matter.” said a more refined voice. “If she gets past the first barricade it’s all over. She must not be allowed to interact with the mainframe."

As the men left the area, she knew that she had little time to find a way out. Unsure of quite how, she knew that down the corridor was the operations center, the Mainframe Room. From there she could find the mapping of the area and possibly a way out. She scurried swiftly across the corridor, being careful not to make a sound. As she slipped into the mainframe room, she locked the door behind her. Her time was limited and she had to act fast. She pulled out the keyboard and her eyes began to glow again with the same eerie indigo color.

"Accessing the central AI mainframe. Greetings Andromeda. I am Athena how can I be of assistance?" The voice seemed to come out of thin air, but somehow it resonated deep within her mind as if it was a part of her.

"Androm? Hmm... My name is Andromeda?" The young girl said softly.

"Affirmative. I am Athena, an AI construct. How can I assist you?"

Andromeda was slightly confused, but she was running out of time.

"What am I doing here? Find me a way out."

Athena countered, "Those files are restricted Andromeda. You do not possess the required security clearance to access the requested files. As for a way out, the compound has multiple distinct areas of egress. I detect that they are looking for you. Your safest route would be tunnel B12. I would hurry if I were you. They are almost to this location."

Not wanting to waste any more time, Andromeda knew that her reasons for being locked up would have to wait for another day. She opened the door and took a quick peek to assess the situation.

“Okay, it’s clear… no one is around. Just a little bit to go and I will be out of here.” Andromeda assured herself, gathered her composure, and worked her way down the hall. She turned the corner, never looking back. Her freedom was close at hand.

Meanwhile in an adjacent area of the compound, two strong guards accompanied two men in lab coats reached the Mainframe room.

"Looks like she accessed Athena sir." one of the guards reported to the man in the lab coat.

"Yes, it does indeed look that way. Not to worry. Athena is safe and has protected files which Andromeda can’t access at this moment. Andromeda is just now learning of her potential. Given enough time to fully harness her abilities, who knows what she will be capable of. We need to find her. FAST!"

"Andromeda is smart, but Athena is smarter. Athena probably led her down to tunnel B12. A way out but also a secure area to trap her. We have to get there. Rico radio the General and tell him we know where she I heading!" the man in the lab coat said with a firm commanding voice. The men then proceeded down the corridor towards tunnel B12.

The floor was even colder as she inched closer to her destination. She was all too familiar with of the cold. As she entered the room, she quickly stopped. Her keen senses alerted her that something wasn’t right. Her unnatural reflexes allowed her to move just in time to avoid a dart. Had she not moved, she knew it would have pierced her neck knocking her unconscious. She quickly turned as she heard noise from above.

Two heavily armored soldier type guards were rappelling from the ceiling in front of her. Both unhooked themselves and took out what looked like batons pulsing with energy. “Great…” she thought to herself. “More advanced technology.”

"Sir, we have landed in on her position. Request permission to engage.” The first guard replied into his Comsat device.

Andromeda could hear the faint echo of a man whose voice she was familiar with say "Engage! ENGAGE DAMN IT! She must not be allowed to leave. We are almost there!"

The two rush the girl and in a flurry she dashed out of their way. One of the guards crashed into a large iron table and seemed to get knocked out in the process. The other stumbled, but recovered using the wall as leverage to spring back to his feet.

Andromeda was astonished. Where did she learn to move that fast she pondered? There clearly wasn’t any time for her to second guess herself here. The guard was almost upon her now and instinctively she began to defend herself using an assortment of combat techniques she didn’t realize she possessed. Both engaged in hand to hand combat launching a flurry of kicks, punches, blocks and counter moves.

The soldier was clearly trained for this kind of combat, but there was something surreal about the way Andromeda moved. She moved gracefully and countered every one of the soldier’s moves. The solider, now getting fatigued, realizes that he end this quickly. He goes for a defensive posture and quickly grabs Andromeda’s arm, bringing her down in a thud. She was pinned and all seemed lost. Suddenly her eyes began to glow again; her hands began to vibrate, and unleashed a pulse of sonic energy.

She could feel the body of the guard go limp as he fell lifelessly to the ground. Andromeda quickly freed herself from his grasp and is amazed at what she had just done. Those combat techniques, her agility, and that strange pulse from her hands. Just what happened to her down here? She had to know. She knew that Athena was the key, but she knew that those answers would have to come at a later time.

She brushed herself off and an overwhelming wave of regret washed over her causing her to weep. She knew that she had just taken a life and that the feelings she was feeling now where nothing she ever wanted to feel again. These feelings confused her. As she worked her way to the door, she heard an all too familiar voice.

"Andromeda, stop. It doesn’t have to be this way." The man in the lab coat said as he entered the room accompanied by the two guards. They were all that was left standing in her way from leaving this nightmarish place.

She lifted up her hand and in a very soft, subtle tone spoke.

"Please don’t make me do this. I don’t want to be here anymore."

The man in the lab coat calmly stepped forward. The security guards each raised their weapons and aimed directly at Andromeda. Andromeda was now more frightened than ever. She could not recall ever having weapons aimed at her before. Could these weapons kill her? Would they cripple her? Or would they simply subdue her? Regardless she knew the outcome would be like her previous encounters. It wasn’t going to be good. She began to shake.

Taking notice, the man in the lab coat ordered his men to stand down.

"Lower your weapons you fools." The guards did as they were told and the tension seemed to recede.

"Andromeda, we need you here. We are not going to hurt you. Please come back with us so we can talk."

The girl sensed the vibrations and tones of his voice and was quickly able to ascertain the credibility in them. She determined that while there was some sincerity in his tone, the probability of him lying was very high. She simply did not trust him and was not willing to take that chance. She knew that hurting them was wrong and she clearly did not like the feeling of hurting another. She clearly had no choice, her escape plan had failed. She slowly lowers her hands.

Suddenly an unfamiliar voice was heard through the comsat. "Sergeant, you have your orders. If she escapes the entire project fails and the world is in danger. Subdue her now!" The man in the lab coat knew all too well that this was a direct order from the General and that he had no chance to fix what had gone wrong.

The guard unsure of himself, but very sure of his orders complied.

"Copy" he raised his weapon, but Andromeda had already become aware of what was about to take place.

In that brief nanosecond, her mind calculated all the known probabilities of each and every potential outcome that could happen. She knew that there was only one option for survival. In that instant, she knew the ramifications of her only choice of action and she knew that she must act in an instant.

She immediately raised her hand again and a pulse unlike anything she had ever seen before was released. Almost immediately all the men fell to the ground.

"What have I done?" She whimpered. Falling to her knees she saw that the David was still breathing, but barely. Andromeda picked up his broken body and held him close.

“David, I’m …I’m.” Tears welled up in her eyes. The man in the lab coat looked at her and forced a soft, somber smile. With his last gasp of life, he looked upon the girl and touched her face with bloodied hands one last time.

"Remember this feeling Andromeda, don’t make the mistakes we have. I’m sorry I failed you."

With his final breath, the David pressed a small button from a device in his hand and the entire complex shook. A massive explosion was heard coming from the mainframe room. It was only a matter of time before the explosions would be upon her.

Andromeda, in shock and disarray, searched frantically for a way out. But alas, all known ways were sealed off. A bitter fate, but one she was willing to accept as the guilt of killing these men was an unbearable weight upon her. The explosions were getting louder. She cried and began to feel even more so alone. Will this be her final memory?

As the explosions were getting closer, she heard something, it was the communications system.

"AI security bypassed, security doors unlocked."

The door suddenly burst open and there was a silhouette in the doorframe. Unable to handle anything more, Andromeda fell into unconsciousness. Could this be salvation or was this merely another grim lesson in reality? Only time will tell…