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Black. Dark. Bathed in the blood of many, yet the hunger refuses to subside. Bars. Metal. They clang loudly, the echo permeating the very essence of his being. Rage. Nothing but a dark, muddled rage roaring its bloody vengeance to keep the memories at bay. Once there was a fight, now distant echoes of what once felt like something remain. No more.

Rage.

A red-coated world had lost its wonder, lost its innocence and the urgency of anything beyond the hunger. Beyond the desire to destroy. The muffled cries reverberated in his mind, a sly smile forcing cracks in his dried lips. They all fell. One-by-one, in groups, old, young, innocent or guilty, each one fell like the rest. Each one tasted like the last.

Remember.

Pulsating in the deepest corners of his mind, a voice crying out to remember. Remember what? The rage. How the bones crunched, the blood sprayed, and the innards spilled to the ground. Along the walls there was nothing but a bright red smear of viscera in the shape of his claws, scratched across the walls, smudging the incandescent reminder of anything before the rage.

The cold spray attempted to cleanse him of his rampage, only further boiling his blood and stirring him to action. The metal bars clanged once again, this time violently, each one standing strong in light of his fists, but bending, slowly, gradually, bending to the force of nature behind his rage.

Remember.

Demoreo.

The name, burning like a hot iron, penetrating into his very being, forcing him to recoil into the corner. Demoreo. Remember. No. No. It burned. Each word seared and sizzled in the back of his mind. The red world turned to a deep haze while the cold spray beat down on his tired, festering carcass. Life or death was no longer mutually exclusive. They resided together and were at war inside of his mind. No. There was nothing left. The maze only led to scratches on the walls that were indiscernible. Maybe in the past they meant something, but the words were foreign. They were just rage.

Finally, the darkness took hold.

* * *

"Oh Crusher," Branch was squatting down in front of the cell while the Crusher's heavy eyelids struggled to open. "Everything is so close, I can just feel it. Can you feel it, my friend?"

"Grrraaah," he managed to form from a guttural memory of communication, the man before him familiar, but the fog not allowing him to press further. The animosity inside of him was swelling like a deep, festering wound that was ripped open anew. Demoreo. The fire burned inside of his head. Jordan Branch did this to you. He bolted up to his feet in a rage, slamming his body against the cell door, sending Branch tumbling onto his ass. "Grah!"

"Still a lively one," Branch sighed. "I fear that it's too late into his development to try anything else."

"I suppose so," a darker-skinned man in a white lab coat stared down at a readout in front of him on a chain of paper that extended all the way to the ground. "He was a fine experiment, Mr. Branch, he's just, well, he's not really responding to the treatments. He still flies into these fits of rage all the time and attacks our staff. We need to sedate him to get anywhere with him and that just doesn't work outside of tossing him into the arena."

"Oh what glory you've brought to that arena, though, my fine friend," Branch turned back towards the cell, Crusher still in a rage. "We do need more out of him. Imagine if he was under my command and actually heeded my orders instead of being uncorked like this."

"We've exhausted every other means for mind control that we've had success for in the past, sir."

"I understand that, but Demoreo here is different, you do get that, don't you?"

"We do..."

"Then why aren't you trying everything?"

"We've tried everything, sir, the only options left on the table are a bit more, well...."

"What?"

"They are invasive. We aren't sure that he'll survive the procedure, plus, he's so large and his biology has completely changed since the--"

"What part of 'everything' don't you understand? Demoreo here has been through so much, what is a little bit more?"

"I mean, we could," the man's face turned as white as a newly laundered sheet. "I'm just not sure that he'll survive it, and we know how important he is to you."

"He's served his purpose thus far, I suppose," Branch traced his fingers along the bars on the door. "But the intended purpose was to be able to control him. Right now, in this shape, there isn't much that we can do with him. He won't respond to orders, he only responds to stimulus or hunger. I haven't heard him mumble a coherent sentence in quite a while, even. He just grunts."

"There could be side effects, though."

"What part of this don't you understand? I know that, but that is a risk that we are willing to take."

"No, sir, I mean, there is still some of his personality there. Some of it is latent, some of it isn't. We do routine scans of his mind and even of late we are detecting regular human thought patterns. If we implant this device into his mind, there is no telling what will happen."

"He was a dead man when he first came to us and we gave him new life. If he dies like this, then at least he had that bit more of life."

"But he had a family, a wife, a daughter, a son and..."

"We've compensated them. They live among us now. In fact, they live like the elite. They would've been fodder for the arena under any other circumstance. She's unskilled, of no real use to us."

"She is fertile," the doctor said, Crusher feeling a new surge of rage build up in him, once again slamming himself against the door, ignoring the jolts of pain each time that he made contact.

"There there, friend," Branch chided. "This life was never meant to be perfect, now was it? But we can rebuild, much like we are doing now. Peterson, when can we begin the procedure?"

"Today, if you want. I do advise that we proceed with caution, though, as he was in the arena last night and tends to be a bit more, well.... Prone to bouts of rage."

"Just ensure that he's sedated."

Branch trotted off, out of view without a care in the world while a group of guards approached and fired round after round of darts into his body. Each one stung more than the last. Crusher fought it at first, plucking them from his body, trying to remind himself that he was a man, that he was Demoreo, but they acted quickly, making his whole body heavier, his head foggy. As hard as he fought, it was futile, and the fight was slowly draining from him along with his consciousness. Demoreo, he repeated to himself, before it all went blank.

* * *

Consciousness returned, the haze still heavily occupying his thoughts and obscuring anything tangible from forming inside of his mind. A blank canvas to the world around him, Crusher sat up, no longer consumed by rage. Men in lab coats stood tentatively nearby, armed guards pointing their guns at him. He sat quietly, the hulking mass on a giant slab of a table, waiting.

"Oookay," Peterson said. "He's awake, and he's not smashing or eating everything."

"That's good, isn't it?" The other replied.

"I think so, but we don't know yet, we can't let Mr. Branch know yet, he'll get too excited and--"

"And what? Do something rash?" Branch strode into the room wearing a smile on his face. He stood right in front of Crusher and inspected him from head-to-toe. "My, my, Crusher, aren't we in control today?"

Crusher simply sat, staring at Branch, a haphazard crown of metal protruding from his skull, the gauze still tightly wrapped around the base and stained a deep crimson.

"Crusher, stand up, please," Branch ordered. Crusher groaned, still feeling the effects of all the sedatives, but pulled himself up to his feet, off of the table. His bare feet slapped against the cold concrete floor, him looking down at a smirking Branch. A dull, thudding pain pulsated throughout his head, a constant zap that wasn't overpowering, but noticeable. "What would there ever be concern about?"

"Well, sir, we haven't conducted the proper tests yet and--"

"I designed this myself, though," Branch walked around Crusher, marveling at him. "This was my invention, was it not?"

"Yes, sir, but—"

"There are no buts, Peterson. Crusher is under our control. He's as docile as a newborn puppy and as obedient as an old dog now. This is precisely what we wanted from this experiment, in fact, I'm upset that we didn't do this sooner."

"There are still possible side effects, he is still highly dangerous," Peterson pulled his glasses off and rubbed his temples.

"Oh, I don't fear my Crusher, I don't fear him at all," Branch ran his fingers over Crusher's back. "In fact, Crusher."

"Urgh?"

"Crusher, take Peterson over here's head off."

"No, what?" Peterson looked up at him in horror, dropping his clipboard to the ground with a clatter. "No, sir, wait, I was just..."

"Crusher!"

"Rrraaaagh!" Crusher let out a mighty roar. The doctor tried to run, but the guards all turned their guns on him. He scrambled for the bench, grabbing for anything to protect himself, but it was too late. Crusher's hand was wrapped around his neck, a tight grip turning his head into a dark crimson shade.

"This is working just splendid, I think," Branch said. "Now give me his head!"

Crusher tightened his grip, Peterson's flesh turning a deep shade of purple, trying to escape only for Crusher to reach down with his other hand, grip firmly onto his skull and twist. There was a sickening crack with a whimper, the head coming loose and blood spraying all over. He had died before his clipboard had settled into the ground, all of it happening in a matter of seconds. Crusher turned to Branch, who was laughing maniacally with blood dotting his suit. Crusher held the head out towards Branch, who smiled and nodded approvingly.

"Oh my sweet boy," he whispered. "What have we done?"

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A note from dvewlsh

We'll return to the Crusher later this week.

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About the author

dvewlsh

Bio: I used to write about professional kickboxing. Trust me, I was good. Now I write science fiction.

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