Chapter 34: Prison 09
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Sorry for the delay. Still 3 chapters this week. 

“Prison 09. That’s the place.”

Athena said quietly as she pointed to a spot on the paper map.

As she expected, whatever program that created the girl had been monitoring emergency services for any report that might resemble her, and the calls for help from the townspeople caught their attention.

Luckily, by the time these soldiers arrived, Athena had already finished cleaning up the battlefield and replacing the survivors in the town and the girl with changelings. The Decima soldiers had no idea what they were dealing with. Just like that, they loaded dozens of Zerg changelings onto their gunships and took them back to their secret base of operation.

Athena had used changelings for both the mutant girl and the civilians in case the soldiers had orders to execute one of these two groups, but for some reason, they decided to bring both groups with them. Retrieving the experiment made sense, but the civilians? Less so.

Either way, despite the distance, Athena was still in contact with all the changelings and could sense exactly where they were. After a while of waiting, the gunships landed and unloaded the prisoners. Athena, with the link she shared with the changelings and the help of the adjutant, was able to locate the base.

“Prison 09 is marked in the Decima database as an execution facility. It is located in the heart of the Cindia desert. It’s where prisoners in half of this province are sent when they are sentenced to death.” In a hiding spot a distance from the town, Athena explained to Adrianna and Rum, essentially repeating what the adjutant informed her.

“Why?” Adrianna frowned. She had been given the basic information about the girl by Athena. “Why not just shoot the prisoners and get it over with like what the Imperium does? Sending them to a remote prison in the middle of a desert just seems like overkill.”

“From what I have learned, the Kingdom of Decima prefers to work prisoners to death instead of executing them outright. They seem to believe it will serve as a better crime deterrence than immediate execution.” Athena shrugged. “Either way, it seems like this prison is a cover for some type of classified Decima experiment program.”

“The constant supply of death roll prisoners will provide an ample supply of lab rats. It’s not like anyone can visit these prisoners.” Rum scoffed. “How clever of them.”

“It still doesn’t make much sense.” Adrianna shook her head. “Why would the Kingdom of Decima set up this facility on their capital planet in the first place? If I want to build a secret research project involving monster girls that I don’t want anyone to know about, I would do it on a space station in the middle of nowhere. Or at least a remote, uninhabited planet.”

“Maybe it’s just for the test subjects? Or perhaps there is some other reason.” Athena speculated.

“I guess it doesn’t matter. Here’s the problem, Athena. Even if we know where they are, a secret research site will likely be heavily defended and fortified.” Adrianna looked at Athena, worried. “You said the girl was some type of bioweapon, correct? Neither the Imperium nor the Republic has achieved anything like that, at least not publicly. It is a very advanced technology, and the Kingdom of Decima will do whatever it takes to protect this technology.”

“I know.” Athena was well aware of the danger. This wasn’t a poorly defended airfield or a small unit of Decima soldiers. This was a valued position that was likely guarded by the best the kingdom had to offer. She had acquired a lot of resources and her supply cap had increased a lot, but this would be a difficult fight nonetheless.

“And I know that look in your eyes, Athena.” Adrianna sighed. “Is this location really that important to you?”

Athena bit her lips. Protoss units tended to be far stronger than Terran or Zerg units on a similar level. Even the most basic zealots could carve through a small army of zerglings and marines like they were nothing. In the right scenario, a handful of zealots could likely slay entire units of Decima or Venya soldiers, not to mention other, stronger Protoss units. The reality was that if she left now, she had no idea when, or if, she would have a similar opportunity again.

Plus, it wasn’t like she didn't stand a chance with this site. She had plenty of good cards to play. The dozens of changelings in the base right now. The Zerg roaches, ravagers, queens, and zerglings. The Terran infantry and light vehicles. If she played these cards right, she stood a decent chance of getting what she wanted.

There would be risks, but she believed the reward was well worth the risks.

“Yes.” She said gently before looking up at Adrianna. “But I don’t think you should come with me. I want you to take the vehicle and go to the city we were originally heading for. Storm’s City. Get there and settle down. Do some research on the local targets if possible. I will find you when I’m done with all this.”

“Got it.”

“And one more thing.” Athena turned to the side, where two Terran marines, now outside of their armor, stepped up. They were no longer armed with their gauss rifles, but they were still adult male soldiers who were concerningly good at bashing heads in.

“Click and Dash.” Athena introduced the two marines that had been her bodyguards for a while. “They also have records in the Decima databases as civilians. They will go with you to Storm’s City.”

“I don’t need babysitters.” Adrianna frowned, a little unsure. She had worked with Athena for a while and trusted Athena with her life, but two men who she knew very little about?

“You can trust them as much as you trust me. They will guard you with their lives. Storm’s City should be safe and you are registered as a Decima citizen, but it’s impossible to be sure.” Athena insisted. “They will also have a way to contact me securely.”

“Fine.” Adrianna finally nodded. "Just be careful out there. If things go wrong, don't linger around too long. I'm sure there'll always be another chance to get whatever it is you're after."

As Adrianna, Click, and Dash left, Athena turned back to Rum.

“So, tell me Rum…how hard is it to drive a hellion?”

On the surface, Prison 09 was just that. A prison. It was located so deep in the desert that it would take most vehicles at least two hours of drive to reach it. This location alone was enough to deter most curious gazes, not that there were many who wanted to look into Prison 09. As far as the world knew, the prison was simply another place where the government sent its worst criminals to suffer and die. There were many other facilities like this all over the planet.

However, if an outsider was to take a careful look at the facility, they would realize something was off. For starters, for a production facility, the prison produced fewer goods than it should. Perhaps that could be easily explained by an incompetent warden or some trigger-happy guards, but even for an execution facility, the prison had a little too many security measures. The prison had at least a full battalion of Decima soldiers as security, and this wasn’t just an average battalion from the Decima Royal Legions…no, it was a battalion composed of the best soldiers the Kingdom had to offer, coupled with a concerning amount of gunships, drones, tanks, and armored vehicles.

Of course, if an outsider did learn so much information about the facility, they would likely be captured by the guards not long after, and the information they acquired would soon die with them.

Prison 09 was divided into six floors, five of which were underground. The deeper the floor, the more classified it was and the more security it had.

In a lab room on the lowest floor, an experiment was going on. A woman in a white lab coat watched through a reinforced two-way mirror as, in the other room, a young man rolled around on the ground, screaming in sheer agony. There was a blue crystal in front of him, held up by a mechanical arm.

The woman watched expressionlessly as the man continued screaming. A terrifying transformation was happening to him, one that was quite familiar to the woman. Gradually, his skin began to harden, forming a type of biological armor. The bones in his fingers began to extend. Unnatural protrusions began growing out of his body. All of that was accompanied by the chilling sound of bones cracking and breaking.

“Excuse me, Doctor Vincent.” After a few seconds, a young woman behind the first woman apologized before turning and quickly leaving the room, her face pale as she tried her best to hold back her vomit. Throwing up in front of her boss wouldn’t be the best for her career.

Doctor Vincent paid no attention to her. Her eyes were trained on the young man and the young man alone.

Two minutes later, the transformation was complete, and the young man in the room stood back up.

“Sergeant.” Doctor Vincent leaned forward and spoke into a microphone. “Can you hear me?”

She was answered with screeches that could only come from a mindless beast.

“Doctor,” Another man behind Doctor Vincent, one who was much more senior than the girl who fled the room, looked up from his PEI. “It seems like the chemical solution failed. Sergeant Parker’s brain has been altered like the subjects from all the previous experiments. He is no longer with us.”

“Then why did Experiment Echo-4 retain his thoughts? And Echo-34 and Echo-12? They all took the same solution.” Doctor Vincent whispered, talking more to herself than to her aid.

“With all due respect, doctor, the human brain is an extremely complicated subject. Even after decades of research we still know nothing about how the crystal alters the mind. Compound Echo worked for several instances, but we have no idea why it worked. We don't even know if it will last. You should know as well as I do that science is not something we can rush. We need more time to…”

“We don’t have more time!” Doctor Vincent suddenly snapped at her aid. “You know exactly what is going on outside this base! Our nation is being invaded as we speak! We don’t have another 20 years to work on this project!”

The aid bit his lips but wisely held his tongue. In reality, even if the Imperium found out about this project, researchers like him with decades of relevant experience would likely still get to work on this project. If anything, the Imperium would give them better resources and compensation in exchange for faster results. Sure, they would be carefully monitored at all times, but it wasn't like they were completely free now.

Still, knowing Doctor Vincent, the aid would be insane to voice those thoughts.

“I…I will get back to work, sir.” The aid said. “However, we are about to run out of test subjects. We still have plenty of volunteers from the garrison, but…”

“Didn't we just receive a shipment of 200 prisoners?”

“That was a week ago, sir.” The aid protested. “With the accelerated testings you have ordered since the war with the Imperium began…”

“Fine.” Doctor Vincent replied before turning and heading for the door. “I will arrange things. Just do everything you can to make sure the test subjects won’t be wasted.”

She left the observation room and was immediately joined by a pair of guards. She barely made it a few steps out before running into an officer.

“Colonel Rikers.” The doctor paused. “I was just going to look for you.”

“Doctor Vincent.” Colonel Rikers, a middle-aged man who had been in the military for the last 30 years, greeted the doctor. “Our teams have retrieved Experiment Delta-3. It was found in a town called Terrin. It has been brought back to here, alongside dozens of townspeople who witnessed its rampage through the town.”

“Delta-3?” Doctor Vincent rubbed her temples. “That’s the experiment from Site 04, right? The one that got loose during transportation after Site 04 was closed down?”

“Yes sir. It’s a Stage 3 experiment. It killed a lot of people in the town, but my boys managed to get it under control.”

“Good. Follow the protocols. Take the experiment to the containment area in Area B and bring the civilians to Area D. We were just in need of some new test subjects.”

Colonel Rikers nodded, unfazed by the doctor’s command. During his time here he had seen more than his count of atrocities. He had watched so many people be used as lab rats. Some were murderers, rapists, and other criminals who deserved all the pain that came with the experiments. Others were innocent Decima civilians who had to die either way. There was a time when he would feel guilty about all this. That time was long gone.

As the colonel turned and left, Doctor Vincent sighed. The research in this facility had the potential to revolutionize warfare in the entire galaxy. There was even a chance that it could propel the Kingdom of Decima from a minor power to a galaxy-spanning empire.

Yet to do so, she needed more time and resources than she had. If she couldn’t complete her work in time, all the research and sacrifice in this facility would only benefit an outside power like the Venya Imperium.

For a patriot like the doctor, there could be no worse outcome.