Inside an empty lab, there was a woman in her fifties armed to the teeth, which was the norm in the apocalypse era. Today, she looked sober and alert, which was unusual. There was no sign of any bottles of alcohol she usually had in hand, always drinking to ease the tearing pain in her heart.
The idiom ‘Time heals all wounds’ was a lie to her, for she still felt the pain even after so many years.
Someone entered the lab, but she did not raise her head, already knowing who it was. Steady footsteps approached before stopping beside her. There was a scent of strong cologne coming from the newcomer, so as to mask the heavy odor of smoke from his chain smoking.
“It’s been ten years,” the low timbre voice of a man echoed in the silent laboratory.
Today was the anniversary of their daughter’s death, and also the day when their hard effort to end the terror of many years became futile.
Instead of the usual alcohol bottle, the woman was holding a faded picture of a family of three in her hand. Her finger caressed the area where a fire had coincidentally burned off her daughter’s face in the picture. “I tried so damn hard to remember her face, her voice… but I’m forgetting her.”
The man’s aged face softened at his wife’s hoarse voice, damaged from her heavy drinking. “Suzie…”
Both of them chose their own method to bear with their loss, disregarding how damaging it was to their body. They did so as if it would help cope with their loss as well as shorten the time until they could reunite with their daughter.
The door to the lab opened again and a man in his late twenties but already with completely white hair staggered into the room. His lab coat looked two sizes larger on his extremely thin frame and it was dirty, a violation of the now-defunct lab rules. In this apocalypse era, being clean was a luxury.
The researcher moved at a snail-like pace while busily drinking a nutrient liquid packet to resupply energy to himself. Food was scarce, and it had been a long time since anyone had tasted real meat.
Not including some humans who had started hunting their own kind to eat.
Facing the couple that were the remaining best fighters in their survival base, the researcher went straight to the point, “I don’t know if this will work, but we have to try. We’ve received news that other survivors in the winter countries got attacked at the same time. It’s unknown how many survivors there are, but the estimated casualties are a staggering amount. Humans will go extinct soon at this rate.”
“We need to know who is behind all this and why.” Suzie tapped her finger at the table, still irritated from the knowledge that they had been under someone’s control for over ten years without knowing.
“And then we will fuck up those motherfuckers and make them regret being born,” Suzie’s husband, Charles cursed vehemently.
The researcher laughed like a mad person and resumed drinking the nasty tasting liquid in a better mood. “I don’t know how far I can send both of you back. No matter what time it is, please… get those sons of bitches.” His words ended with a choked sob, which no one scorned him for. Everyone had lost too much in the apocalypse.
What they desperately needed was time to search for the one that had caused the apocalypse and stop the problem from its core cause. All this time they had foolishly thought that the apocalypse was an unavoidable act of nature caused by human ignorance for experimenting with what they were not supposed to. It was until they caught a snitch that informed them of something which led them to suspect the true source of the virus.
They had blindly believed their daughter’s death was predetermined, and they failed to change her fate. They believed the devil’s lies and even helped them.
“Try to get us back to ten years ago. It will be even better if it’s before the outbreak in Marigold country,” Suzie Yap requested.
The researcher shook his head at her request. “I have only just 'Awakened' and have not even familiarized myself with this new power. I could suck myself dry even before sending both of you back just one minute to the past.”
“We will give you all our energy,” Charles Wong offered. “Sending our minds back instead of our physical bodies should take less of a toll on you.”
The researcher was about to erupt at the second request that was even more impossible than the first.
“We are running out of time,” Charles Wong added. His piercing gaze challenged the young man.
“... Fine.” The researcher relented. This was their last chance to change their future.
Suzie Yap and Charles Wong placed their hand on the researcher’s chest and channelled their energy into him without holding anything back.
The researcher grunted in pain from channelling their raw power for his use. Taking a deep breath and clearing his mind from unnecessary thoughts, he sought to use his power that gave birth to this suicidal plan to rescue mankind. Placing each hand on their head, his body trembled from gathering every drop of his power, and his body visibly grew thinner until his desiccated skin stuck terrifyingly to his bones.
It was excruciatingly painful, like a giant leech sucking out his flesh under his skin, but the researcher did not stop until he completely exhausted all his vitality. It was extremely torturing to feel his life being sucked away, but it would be worth it.
If his younger brother… his father… his friends… if they had a chance to survive, sacrificing his life would be worth it. Besides, his younger self would be with them!
Hours later, a team member searched for them when the trio did not appear at dinnertime. The poor guy screamed when he saw two dead bodies that had lost all their flesh, along with a pile of ashes under a dirty lab coat.