Jax hits his buzzing alarm, hoping to forget today. Rolling to his side he sees the light creeping in and hears the loud bustle of people moving around. He squints his eyes in displeasure, rolls back to his back and pulls his pillow over his eyes and ears trying desperately to disappear back into the comfort of his sleep. A repetitive dripping echoes from the bathroom annoying him even more.
His phone dings. “Dammit, I thought I turned that off last night.” He throws the pillow against the wall and stares at the ceiling. His thoughts get lost in the intricate patterns of orange, yellow, and black mildew. The colors remind him of the hospital room he stayed in not long ago. It’s been three years since his accident.
The doctors told him that he was lucky to survive such serious injuries. He spent six months in a medically induced coma while doctors tinkered with his brain. When he finally woke, he didn’t know who or where he was, and he was experiencing sensory overload. He had to be sedated because he attacked two nurses and a doctor. The doctors started him on a cocktail of drugs he would later be mostly weaned off of.
Over the next six months the hospital was his home as he went through different mental and physical rehabilitative sessions as well as extensive testing. It was also six months of boredom, he spent most of his time reading. His favorite book was about a futuristic explorer named Jax. Which he later decided he wanted to choose as his name.
Jax felt like a blank slate. The lack of memories was painful to him. He had a longing for family, friends, a history. He asked the doctors and nurses, but they were all reluctant to talk. All except one.
Keri, a grandmotherly nurse, told him about the night that he came into the hospital. There was major trauma to his brain. He also had lost a large amount of blood from multiple stab wounds and required a blood transfusion. The emergency staff that brought him in said that he had been involved in a gang related incident. Jax had no ID and had been listed as an unidentified victim. Since he didn’t have a next of kin present the doctor made the decision to perform an experimental surgery to save his life.
The doctor told him that they used a cybernetic implant and nanotech to repair the trauma to his brain and body. Both procedures were still being tested. The nanotech delivered large amounts of nanoparticles into the brain tissue and his body and encouraged transdifferentiation of the cells. In other words, it caused them to regenerate.
They collected what they felt was sufficient data from him and released him after a year of being confined to the hospital. The doctor warned him to not discuss the surgery with anyone because it could result in the death of him and the others involved.
Jax was released with nothing and he had no one to depend on. All he did have was the wonderful side effects of his implant: extreme Hyperesthesia and a seriously out of control addiction to Blue Cryo, the remaining drug that they failed to wean him of. It haunted him daily.
Keri had sent him off with a hug and her number in case he had an emergency. He asked her why she cared enough to help him. She told him that she has a son who she loves dearly and she hasn’t seen him in a long time. She said that Jax reminds her of her son. Jax was grateful for her kindness because there were many times that he had to reach out to her in the beginning. Especially when he couldn’t get Blue Cryo, and he started going into withdrawal. He didn’t know what was worse, the withdrawal from the medication or the onslaught of Hyperesthesia. After a couple of months Keri had told him that the doctors that had been involved in his surgery had been terminated. She also said that she was afraid for them to continue communicating.
The putrid smell of the mildew and wet wood made him lurch as vomit invaded his throat. He rolled off the bed, grabbed the bottle of Blue Cryo and ran to the bathroom. He threw two pills in his mouth, cupped his hands under the faucet, and washed the pills down with the cold bitter tap water then walked to his glowing phone on the bed. A text from Fuchsia read: “Don’t be late today Love!”
He looked at the time, 9:15. “Shit, I’m going to be late.”
He rolled his eyes thinking it didn’t matter, because she was already upset with him.
He returned to the bathroom to wash his face and look in the mirror. A stranger’s dark grey eyes, emotionless and cold, looked back at him. He ran one hand over his bare chest feeling every bump and ripple. Scars. Each one a story that will never be told. He took a deep breath knowing that he needed to hurry, so he pulled his hair up, except for a few strands that he used to hide the scars on his neck and head. He put his clothes and shoes on and ran out the door.
There wasn’t far to go as he reached a mostly abandoned area of town. He went to the back of the building and saw Fuchsia's moody one-eyed black and dark grey cat Nix sitting on top of a metal bin beside the door, looking much like a gargoyle. It stared at him as he tried to open the door. It hissed and swiped at him but he dodged its attempts. It swished its tail back and forth and let out a purr as he cautiously reached to pet it. It rubbed its head into his hand and purred like they were best friends. He entered the building and expected to see Fuchsia waiting on him, but she was nowhere to be found.
When he first met Fuchsia, he was about nineteen years old and working as a delivery person for some small company. One day, after he had made a delivery, he spotted Nix and, fueled by curiosity alone, followed as it turned down an alley. He found the cat sitting on a woman’s lap. She spotted him instantly and he feared that she would think he was some creep. Before any other reactions could be noted the cat jumped down and walked over to him. It began to rub up against his legs. Luring him into a false sense of security. As he reached down to pet it the cat whipped around and mauled his hand. The woman jumped up and began laughing, and he met her eyes looking thoroughly pissed.
She paused and walked his way and said, “Come on honey, let me get you patched up.” She introduced herself and asked what he was doing in the alley. After finding out she asked if he was interested in making some deliveries on the side for her. Which he gladly accepted.
After a couple of months, he was running errands, doing other small tasks, and even helping take care of Nix. Fuchsia eventually asked him if he would be interested in a fulltime job with her.
Being desperate for money Jax didn’t really care what he was getting himself into. Fuchsia had told him a little of what they did and what would be expected of him. He was sick of living on the streets and any money he made went to Blue Cryo. Fuchsia guaranteed him a place to live, good money, and protection.
He was mesmerized by her bright pink hair, tall stature, and spiced vanilla scent. She also seemed bubbly and quite sane, the latter being a lie.
It had been seven months since he began assisting one of Fuchsia’s other employees, Bren. So, for the most part, he was still kind of clueless about this job. He was told not to ask questions and just to do what they told him to do. He often assisted by locating individuals that were on a list. A list that he has been assured were all bad people. Once the individuals were located Bren would detain the individual using a tranquilizer and they would be taken back to the lab.
Last night, Jax was given the job of administering the tranquilizer. The mission went the same at first as they both searched for the individual. Jax found the individual first but got scared and shot the tranquilizer before contacting Bren. When he approached the individual, he had realized they had a name tag on that was different from what he had on the list.
He began to panic. Bren showed up and realized what had happened. Bren tried to tell Jax to calm down but all he could hear was a muffled garble as he ran away.
Bren let Fuchsia know immediately.
Not long after he had botched the job, she confronted him. He was hiding in a nearby alley. His heart was racing, and he was trying to calm down and figure out what to do. Fuchsia showed up and grabbed his shoulders from behind. The situation triggered something deep in his mind. He heard his name but was frozen in fear. Fuchsia realized he was having trouble breathing and something was wrong. She reached out and hugged him as she whispered calmly into his ear, “Jax breathe”. Her intoxicating scent of spiced vanilla wrapped around him, comforting and distracting. It brought him back to reality. She leaned back and told him not to worry that they would take care of it. She laughed it off and told him he would be cleaning her lab for a month to make up for it.
In the lab....
Jax stares at a stained surgical table that appears to be covered in old blood. He wonders how long it has been since it has been cleaned. He also wonders what exactly Fuchsia does with the people from the list, but pushes those thoughts away while grabbing the spray bottle and towels. His stomach turns as the smell of chemicals and old blood mix on the table.
Bren and Sina walk in and he takes a deep breath, afraid Bren is going to be mad at him. Bren and Sina are talking about the lab. Jax is not allowed to be anywhere near the lab when Fuchsia is working so he tries to tune out their conversation.
Sina is wearing shorts, a sweatshirt, and boots. Her long hair is braided revealing her undercut and tattoos. Sina wears black gloves to cover her cybernetic hands. She doesn’t like to talk about how she lost her hands. Jax thinks Sina smells like licorice.
Bren is wearing all black. He can smell the leather from Bren's boots and jacket mixed cloves from across the room. His hair is worn in a very short ponytail with a couple of loose strands dancing across his face. His green eyes meet with Jax for a second as he continues to talk with Sina. He winks at Jax. “What the hell?” He uncomfortably shifts in his space, dropping the bottle of cleaner and almost trips while trying to grab it. Jax’s heart races and his cheeks are burning.
Fuchsia walks his way, messing with her phone and popping her gum which Jax finds horribly annoying, and she knows it.
He’s still crouched on the floor trying to hide from Bren. As she giggles at his clumsiness and asks if he needs help.
Jax answers “No” and kicks a box. He looks at its label, Bit Box 327.
It no longer shines, and the smell of rust is overpowering. Pieces of random objects fill the box collected from god knows where. His vision adjusts to the darkened space and he sees what appears to be a bloody ID card. He realizes it is the person from his job last night. In shock he shoots straight up and busts his head on the table.
All he sees are stars.