Book: The First - Part: One - Chapter: 2 - Installment: i

The three recruits stood in a row in the old abattoir.  Not one could truly conceal their fear.
None would be where they now stood without having made the decision with absolute certainty.
None would be allowed to be there without absolute knowledge of the risks they were taking.
Not one would have made the decision if they had anything else in the world that mattered to them.
For each, it was the most important decision of their lives, and more than likely the last.  With nothing else left to live for, nothing else made sense.
Sheldon stood naked between the other two potential recruits.  His mind raced with the tenets the Lazarus had drilled him with; the cornerstones of their philosophy.
Act not out of vengeance, but in defense.
One for one is not enough.  One for a thousand is righteous sacrifice.
Over and over he ran those and the others through his head – anything to keep his mind off the terrifying fact that he could easily be in the last minutes of his life, and that if he wasn’t, life was about to change forever.
He looked off each of his shoulders – the man on the left, the woman on his right.  He didn’t even know their names.  Practically the first thing they had been told was to not get to know the others - to not get attached.  That statistically speaking none of them would survive.  That the chances were, if any one of them lived through the imminent transition that followed their training, they’d be the first out of the last three ‘classes’ of recruits.
He looked to the one way glass.  It looked like an afterthought.  It had to have been installed in the wall of what had once been a walk in freezer.  In fact, it was an old abattoir – it had probably originally been an ice-box, where they now stood.  He tried to peer through the near mirror of the glass – to see movement behind it.
What a cliché.  He thought.  Who is up there?  Who is the overseer, what is their plan?  How do we fit in?  What greater plan are they enacting by playing upon the fact that each of us have nothing left to lose?
“Gentlemen.  Lady.”
Sheldon had been watching her since the beginning.  He hadn’t been the only one.  He’d noted that the other man had been watching too.  He didn’t know for certain why, but it couldn’t have been much different than his own reasons.  Sylvette, their primary instructor, was the sexiest woman Sheldon had ever seen.  There was something distinctly creepy about her appeal, but there was no denying the raw sexual aura of the woman, indeed her odd nature magnified it.
The midnight hair; the pale skin; the bright, violet coloured eyes created a strikingly unique look.  Her physique was mouthwatering.  Her tight limbs were muscled like a wild dog, lean and hard, the skin almost an after-thought.  The dangerous, agile strength was both frightening and alluring.  Sheldon couldn’t decide if the duality was in spite of or because of each aspect.
“Congratulations and good luck.”  She said as she walked out of his blind spot to in front of the trio.
Sheldon sensed the sudden increase of saliva in his mouth, as he watched Sylvette prowl past his field of vision.
The woman in his group of three – whatever her name was – was not unattractive.  Had they been allowed to fraternize, Sheldon could imagine he might have tried to do so with her.  He could see how he might cling to her in desperate final carnal fury.  Knowing that chances were very good that both of them were living their final days, they would have fulfilled their deepest sexual desires together – each other’s probable last sexual partner.  But that had been forbidden.
Instead Sheldon fantasized about Sylvette – her true animal magnetism being even more unattainable than… whatever her name was, and magnitudes sexier.
“Look at your fellow recruits.  If you are still here in fifteen minutes, chances are they won’t be.”
Sheldon was getting to the point where he was getting weary of the constant reminders.  What is the point?  He thought. We’re long past the point of no return.
“Honour them now.”
Technically they had been past the point of no return as soon as they were recruited.  Once they knew what they were ‘signed-up’ for there was no turning back.  If he had known at the time that it would simply be the first of innumerable clichés, he would have found it funny.  As it was, he’d actually scoffed at the ‘once you know, you can’t back out or we’ll have to kill you’ situation he’d found himself in.
The truth of the matter was that he was past the point of no return as soon as he’d seen the bodies of Karen and their children… flayed, drained, dismembered and scattered across their campsite.
He’d been on the lake fishing.  When he returned…
He could make no sense of it.  The senseless brutality.  The police were relentless.  There were no animal tracks, and the wounds matched no animal they could determine – certainly nothing native to the area.  The only signs of people were those of himself and his dead family.  The lack of evidence of any sort left the police baffled.  They had nothing to pin the murders to Sheldon with.  Yet the complete lack of any other evidence left him as their prime suspect, and he’d suffered under the heat of their scrutiny for months.  Coupled with his profound grief, it was more than he could bear.  He tried to work, but could not focus.  He spent time amongst friends, but found he had nothing to say.  He could feel the eventual strain of his presence upon even the most well-intentioned of them, and soon he found he could not bear to inflict himself upon any of them any longer.  The police would not let him travel far while the case was still open.
When he first started drinking he did it with a knowing irony.  I’m miserable.  I should drown my sorrows at least once.  Another cliché – or the first, rather.  But once became twice.  Twice deliberately became a week-long bender.  Then two-weeks, and then a habit, and then he began losing count.
The agency – he was the legal advisor for an agent for professional athletes – asked him if he would come back after a year’s sabbatical.  He tried.  But his mind was somewhere else.  He didn’t know if it was still on the camping trip – he simply couldn’t tell anymore.  Wherever it was, his mind was not on his work.  Before too long the agency’s founder spoke with him directly.
“Shel.  Do you need help?”
“I don’t know, Al.  I don’t know that I’d even know where to begin.”
“Well, I know people you can talk to.”
“I don’t know.”
“Sheldon, you need to know that I’m not really asking.  I know you’re still hurting and lost, but I need you to move on.  If you can’t, I have to.”
“I… know.”
“So, is that it?”
Sheldon had no answer.
From there the spiral got steeper.  Despair and depression mixed with self-hatred and an 80-proof chaser.
Soon, what little was left was gone, and the only thing he had left to give to the depression was his life.  And he would have, had not the Lazarus Group interceded.  They came telling him that they had the answer to what had happened to his family.  They promised it to him, if he in turn gave them the only thing he had left in the world – his life.
Their move was calculated.  They had known what had happened from the beginning.  They needed any recruits they could muster, but they also needed absolute secrecy.  So they waited.  They watched him and anticipated the last moments perfectly.
He drove out to Callaghan Lake and found the secluded place where it had happened.  He took a shot-gun with him.
He sat there for over an hour, waiting for the nerve to settle in once and for all – he knew that it would only take a moment between making a final decision and acting on it.  He thought about a note… but who would he write it to?
He rolled over the events in his imagination one last time.  How he had climbed up the rise from the lake, not 40 yards from where he sat at that very moment.  How he couldn’t make sense of what he saw.  What was the mess that had become of their campsite?  Where was his family?  How he walked amongst their remains not knowing what they were.  Not believing.  Refusing to believe.  And the slow dawning realization that his worst, darkest fears were true… right there, where he sat…
He grabbed the shot-gun off the seat beside him, put the barrel between his teeth and closed his eyes.  He drew a breath, then thought that he wanted to go out watching the same place where Karen, Chloe and Michael died.  See what they saw – this beautiful place, with its haunting personal history.  Make that his last sight.
He opened his eyes, and there she was.  Sylvette.
That was three months ago.  Now he was back to staring down the barrel of the gun… this time proverbially.
Sheldon looked to his left and to his right – to the man and the woman he had been through the training with.  There would be more training he knew, if he survived the next few minutes.
Honour them now.
He was certain that they both had similar reasons to be here, that they too, for one reason or another had been to the edge and looked down.  That they had nothing to live for except for what might be on the other side of the process they were about to go through.
They both looked - as he imagined he did – steeled.  But was that look bravado?  Are they having any doubts?  As he looked back to reassess the expressions on their faces he felt hands on his upper arms pulling him away.
He was firmly sat down in a sturdy chair by two large men in tan jumpsuits.  He could hear the other two being similarly man-handled behind him.  The woman let out a restrained ‘oof’ as she was sat in her chair.
Sheldon had seen the three chairs as they were brought into the tiled room.  They stood in an outward facing triangle, neither of the others would be able to see him from where they sat either.  They resembled electric chairs.  As one of the men in jumpsuits pulled a thick leather strap across his right wrist, Sheldon realized that they weren’t simply fashioned on execution chairs – they were execution chairs.  The room had, after all once been used for slaughter.  That much he knew, and that much was, if anything, too appropriate.  Sheldon looked at the strap as it was slapped across his arm towards the buckle.
“You won’t need those restraints.” He said.
“Some people have late second thoughts.”  said Sylvette.  “It’s far too late for that.  Also, live or die, the process is traumatic.  The restraints are for your own good.”
His legs were now secure.  His head pulled back against the thick oaken board, firmly in place.
What kind of second thoughts?  He wondered.  You mean some people come this far and want to back out?  They’ve been told from the start that that was never going to be an option.
He had toyed – weeks ago – with what he might do if he were to change his mind.  One thing he knew was that if he changed his mind, escape of some sort was the only option.  He had also reasoned out that leaving it for the last moment would be folly.  Sure enough, this room was secure.  That had been its modified raison d’etre.  From the start they’d been shuttled under escort from one secret facility to another.  Now he assumed he was being observed from behind the one-way glass and there were fully ten various agents of the Lazarus Group here in the room.  Odds were not in one’s favour if they waited for the last moment.
I guess in three months a lot can change.  Sheldon thought to himself.  I suppose you could change your mind.  Decide that you do have something to live for.
A technician stepped before Sheldon and pushed a rubber mouthpiece between his teeth.
Thanks.  Sheldon thought.  This really is harsh, if I’m in danger of clenching so hard I might break my teeth or bite through my tongue.  Painful.  Very painful.
I suppose with that in mind, you might begin to think twice.
The technician now had a long hypodermic needle.  Sheldon’s arm had been prepared before he had come in.
This is it.  All the training has lead up to here.  Everything I’ve learned to help me help them has brought me to this moment.
He had made the choice to avenge his family.  The training had taught him secrets he needed to know to do just that.  But the first cornerstone of the Lazarus’ Philosophy was: “Act not out of vengeance, but in defense.”
FUCK THAT.  I don’t need them!  He thought.
The technician found his vein.
“WAIT!”  Shouted Sheldon.  But with the rubber mouthpiece running interference, it was an unintelligible syllable.  He jerked back and forth, but the straps held him all but immobile.
“No room for second thoughts.”  Sylvette.
Sheldon opened his mouth as wide as he could and pushed on the mouthpiece with his tongue.  They have to hear me out.
The needle broke his skin with a lancing pain.  Sheldon exhaled with the instant shock of the serum entering his veins.  He had a flashing thought of surprise at how immediately it began its work.  His sudden outburst of breath pushed on the mouthpiece, and it burst past his lips in a messy saliva-sprayed arc towards Sylvette.
The technician depressed the plunger all the way.

Installment ii

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Necropolis by Kennedy Goodkey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at necropolisnovels.blogspot.com.