So many choices.
There were so many he could choose from. Which one should he take next? Which one would be the most interesting? Which one would do exactly what he wanted?
Not a single one so far had accomplished what he wanted. All were failures and all had to be terminated prematurely. He didn’t mind though. He’d grown to enjoy that moment when it became clear they were wrong. But he was growing tired of how predictable it became. He could tell as soon as the program started how long the subject would last.
Premature termination. He’d hoped it would only occur a few times before he found the right one, but so far ninety-nine subjects had failed. Ninety-nine failures that never came close.
But he had a good feeling about subject one hundred. He just needed to find her.
He searched the screens, his eyes twitching from one face to another. The images weren’t as clear as he’d like, but he’d have to make due. This was a quick set-up. It had to be a quick set-up in case he needed to move again.
They’d almost caught him last time. It was his own fault, he chose the wrong subject not only for the program, but also for disappearing. She’d seemed perfect. Until the police tracker in her wallet attracted nearly half the city. He was lucky his instruments picked up on it in time, but he had to leave her behind after a quick clean up.
The police claimed they found DNA, but they were liars. It was the closest they came to finding him and they wanted the people to believe in them.
The screen in the top right corner flashed. His eyes shot to it. A match? He stared at the face and slowly stood, leaning close to the screen. He hit several keys on his keyboard and the image cleared, distorting the others.
A smile cracked his lips. There she was. She was perfect.
Subject One Hundred.
* * *
Five minutes. Five more minutes and she’d be free. Her eyes bore into the clock, wishing for the hands to move faster, but only succeeding in making them move slower.
“Come on,” Tess whispered under her breath. She gripped the box on her desk tightly. All of her belongings were ready to be taken home and out of this building.
The activity of the office around her continued on, not as focused on the approaching five o’clock hour. As with any time one waits for minutes to pass, the five minutes Tess watched the clock were the longest in her life.
Thirty more seconds to go.
“Tess,” a booming voice called from behind her.
She jumped and turned, seeing her soon to be ex boss Stephen standing with a package in his hand. She looked at the package and then at Stephen.
“No, Steve, come on. It’s my last day,” she whined, knowing the look in his eyes.
“I know and we’ll miss you, wish you well in your future, and blah blah blah, but I don’t trust anyone else to actually get this done.”
“Jim could,” she said, sounding hopeful.
“You and I both know he can’t. Look, it’s not out of the way. It’s on your way home,” Stephen said.
“And how do you know where I live?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Office party two years ago.”
She cursed. She forgot he had to take her home after that particular disaster. “What is it?”
“Home delivery of a few new computer screens. The buyer doesn’t need them installed just delivered. Simple drop and run,” Stephen said, smiling. He held out the package.
Taking an annoyed breath in, Tess took the package and placed it on top of her box. “Fine, but only because you asked me in a good mood and because if anything goes wrong you can’t blame me since I don’t work for you anymore.”
“Is the only time you’re in a good mood when you’re leaving? I should’ve asked you to make deliveries every night.”
“Funny.” She eyed the clock. Two minutes past five. “Guess this is it. Bye Stephen. Tell everyone else I’ll miss them but not that much.”
“Really, Tess, take care of yourself. We’ll miss you around here.”
Tess picked up her box and smiled at him as she headed towards the door. “You’re only going to miss me cause now this place is back to being all lazy bums.”
“Don’t I know it. And Tess?”
Tess stopped and turned to him. “Yeah?”
“Be careful out there.”
* * *
The address was halfway between her house and the office. Tess cursed at the dumb luck. It was like the person who ordered it knew it was her last day and wanted to make sure she delivered it.
She looked up at the tall buildings. She’d miss her long walks home from the office, though lately they’d been a bit more nerve wracking.
Usually she’d take the bus home or drive herself, but for her last week she wanted to walk, taking in the feeling of going to the job she had for almost seven years. Seven years too long, she thought. But she enjoyed it. The work was crap and having to do deliveries whenever Stephen didn’t want to pay extra for the drivers had been infuriating, but she loved the people and enjoyed her own job.
Then the murders started. Almost one hundred women in the past three years had been kidnapped and found dead. The police wouldn’t release the cause of death, which only made everyone speculate, though some claimed the causes weren’t released because the police didn’t want copycats.
Tess knew it was dangerous to walk around alone even in the early evening before the sun went down, but the most recent murder had taken place clear across town. The murderer wouldn’t hit here so soon…would he?
She shook the thoughts from her head. All she wanted to do was deliver the package and get home.
She stopped outside the address and double-checked it with the package. The building was stuck between two tall, modern apartment complexes. It was an old mansion. Tess had seen a number of them throughout the city. The owners refused to sell their homes and companies were forced to build around them, cramping the houses, making them look out of place.
But this mansion seemed to blend seamlessly with the buildings. The surrounding gate was outfitted with state of the art technology and the house itself appeared to have recently been renovated. Tess tried to find a slot to place the package in, but there was none. She looked at the package and, turning it over, found additional delivery information.
There was a gate code, a door code, and a small message written. Please leave package in the small lobby between the outer front door and inner door.
“Damn it,” Tess said. She input the gate code in the small keypad and crossed the wide yard to the front door. She searched it for a similar keypad, but couldn’t find it. She noticed a doorbell and sighed. She hated talking to those she was forced to deliver to. They usually spent most of the time asking her questions and wasting her time.
Pressing the doorbell, she heard its chime echo through the house. After a moment a small mechanical whirr preceded a keypad emerging from below the doorbell.
Hesitating, Tess punched in the door code and waited. The front door opened and she peered inside. It was a metallic room leading to another door.
Her mind tried to think back on anything she’d ever heard of like this and the closest she came was sterilization rooms. She’d read a long time ago that some of the wealthy that became ill would build sterilization chambers for any visitors to use before being admitted into their home.
She’d never seen one before, but she assumed this was where she was to leave the package. She walked inside and placed the package on the floor by the second door. She turned to leave only to see the front door slam shut behind her.
The lights went out and her heart raced. She ran to the door, slamming into it in the dark and tried to open it. She banged on the door, but it wouldn’t budge.
The sound of gas entering the room filled her with panic and she fought against the door. Her motions slowed as her body became heavy. Drowsiness overtook her and she lowered to the floor. As she drew closer to unconsciousness she could see a tiny red light flashing at her from the top corner of the room.