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Chapter 123 - Liberating the Beasts

 Chapter 123 - Liberating the Beasts

A hundred years ago there was once a wise and knowledgeable Seeker. In the ancient ruins he uncovered an ancient piece of biotechnology, only, most of its secrets had been lost to bygone ages. For years he diligently studied, decades of hard work resulting in numerous advances and discoveries. In the twilight of his life he took on a young and brilliant student to pass on everything he had learned.

That young man's name was Roste.

Roste inherited that old scholar's legacy. Decades past like days as he dedicated himself to this singular field of study. He compared ancient knowledge with the crude modern practices, ultimately creating 'Roste's Alteration Procedure.'

At first his experiments were performed exclusively on wasteland animals. By promoting and accelerating beneficial mutations he made the creatures smarter and stronger. Eventually he succeeded in cultivating beasts with the capacity for critical thought. He called the evolved creatures a new class, Sagax Brutumilia.

However in Roste's eyes the beasts were never more than creatures. They were 'other' and thus he spared them no part of his heart. Besides, endowing these monsters with strength and intelligence would one day put them at odds with his own species. So he stopped his research, but used the basis of what he learned from creating these animals for something new.

This was the origin of Roste's quest to transform humanity. He wanted to take the benefits of Sagax Brutumilia's abilities and transplant them into a human body. This mad endeavor sounded absurd, but after countless attempts he finally succeeded in creating half-beast soldiers!

These transmuted warriors were able to retain the intelligence and memory of a human while attaining the survivability and combat prowess of a wild animal. In theory, they possessed the same capabilities to learn as humans and the raw physical prowess of their animal forbearers. In essence his research was complete, ready for mass production and dissemination. Only, his beast warriors had one critical defect.

Through testing Roste discovered that the subjects were predisposed to contracting strange diseases. He called it Racial Cognitive Disassociation Syndrome.

As the name implies, sufferers of this affliction retained the memory and cognitive abilities of humans but also the base nature and emotionality of animals. Due to how these two overlapped and conflicted, sufferers ended up rejecting their humanity despite their human bodies. The mind deteriorated until victims were something that wasn't human and not beast.

Roste was never able to completely solve the problem. The best he was able to do was develop his brainwashing serum. It didn't cure the syndrome, but instead destroyed the portion of the brain responsible for emotion. After administration of the serum subjects lost their capacity for emotion as well as most of their memory. In essence, they became pliable puppets.

Production of these half-beast warriors began and many were produced, eventually reaching the point where they could develop a dozen or so a month. Due to their strength, abilities, and capacity for following orders the soldiers became a hot selling commodity. An organization like the Dark Atom was more than willing to pay top dollar and this made Blackwater Base very rich in a matter of a few short years.

Many of the instruments, firearms and weapons were given to them by the Dark Atom as a means of payment.

It was irrefutable! Academician Roste was a mad genius.

How could any normal Seeker, surrounded by this barren backwater, create so many inconceivable inventions? In fact, Roste's most successful accomplishments weren't his beast soldiers or the transformed humans. It was his medicines, all sorts of incredible pharmaceuticals which were unavailable to anyone.

Most incredible of all, for decades he turned those medicines and methods on himself. He performed experiments in secret, spending most of his energy in developing his own adaptability mutation. Roste extracted the mutagen factors from many other creatures, strengthened them, then introduced them into his own body to produce a nearly perfect specimen. It was the only result he was truly satisfied with.

Now the might of the wastelands was within him and there was nothing left for him to take from it. He turned his sights on the inscrutable elysian lands and the mystical demonhunter who came from them.

Like most scientists, Roste was an atheist. He did not believe the power of the demonhunters came from any mystical god. For years he yearned to capture one so he could determine precisely what it was that made them special. Once he learned their secrets he could take it for his own. Thus he would become the first creature in history to combine the best of the wastelands and elysian lands, a perfect human specimen!

The strongest, the most resilient!

Cloudhawk was the manifestation of all his desires, especially since Roste knew at a glance that the boy had grown up in the wastes. It proved that their gifts did not come from some god!

The news that Cloudhawk had fled to the cage room spread. Soldiers converged on the location.

However they were too late. Cloudhawk had used the key taken from Chimp's body to open the doors, and slipped in with Hellflower and Hyena. The few soldiers already inside could not contend against the two first-rate fighters and were dealt with in under half a minute.

The animal containment sector was one of the most important locations in Roste's laboratory!

It was separated into two floors by a steel-framed set of stairs. The lower area was arranged in a grid pattern with eight passageways making escape easy. Twenty-some cages were arranged throughout with roughly half housing mutated beasts of all sorts. All told there were about a hundred creatures kept here.

Sagax Brutumilia was a fitting name. Not only were they more intelligent but their bodies had undergone changes as well. These mutations enhanced their primitive capabilities to make them more agile, more ferocious, and more efficient.

After Cloudhawk and the others broke in and dealt with the guards they were met with absolute silence. Unless they were looking right at them it was hard to believe there were so many creatures here because none made a sound. They all sat in their cages in quiet self-restraint.

Cloudhawk approached the closest one and peered through the bars. Inside were perhaps a dozen lizards muzzled and chained to the ground. They looked back at him through an apathetic and resigned fog.

Cloudhawk knew right away that they were the result of constant failures and painstaking breeding. Each one of them held high research value, and of course they were dangerous.

Hellflower was no fool. On the contrary she was smart as a whip. She guessed his plan the moment he led them here. "You're crazy. You can't be thinking of letting these animals out... Do you think they'll help you?"

"I know someone in there can understand what I'm saying." Cloudhawk paid Hellflower no mind, there wasn't any time. He spoke to the animals instead. "If you want to live, if you want your freedom, then here's your one opportunity. If we work together we can all get out of here!"

Several of the creatures were roused from their lethargy when they heard Cloudhawk speak. Several knowing pairs of eyes stared his way.

"I'm like you, a victim of their experiments. We have the same enemy and the same goals." Cloudhawk wasn't a fool, he knew that his plan was dangerous. But he couldn't think of anything better, they had to take the risk. "I'm going to let you go and give you back your freedom. In return I want you to help me fight Roste and the evil scientists who did this to you!"

Hellflower moved forward as though to stop him, but Hyena's growling words stopped her. "Let me do it!"

Cloudhawk didn't have time for any nonsense so without hesitation he fished out Chimp's key and unlocked one of the cage doors. Resolutely he strode in and unlocked the shackles, the only thing keeping the creatures from eating him alive.

Hiss! Hiss! Aaoooghh!

Several burly desert lizards charged. Their mutations made them more like miniature dinosaurs, capable of standing up on powerful hind legs. Not only were they much larger than a normal wasteland lizard, they were also smarter. They headed right for Cloudhawk.

"Watch out!"

Hellflower was ready to shoot but Hyena held her arm.

Hyena fixed his sharp eyes on Cloudhawk. The thought of using these creatures had never crossed his mind, nor did he suspect Cloudhawk would think of it. All that was left was to see if the kid's luck would hold out.

In fact even Cloudhawk saw it as a gamble. But his confidence came from experience.

Back with the Tartarus Mercenaries was when Cloudhawk had encountered the rat king. It was nearly as smart as any human. These creatures were no different, and after being locked up with the scientists for so long he bet they understood human speech.

They had to know what he was saying.

If they had even a shred of logic they had to know this was their only chance to get out. If they let it pass or killed him they would spend all the rest of their lives chained up in these cages oppressed by these hateful scientists.

He faced the oncoming lizards with a calm exterior, not even flinching from their roars.

The first one to reach him spread open it's maw to take a bite! But then the largest of the herd lunged forward to knock it away. This one was the alpha, and the smartest. It communicated with the others through a series of growls and hisses which caused them to calm down.

It paid off! It paid off!

Cloudhawk had been nervous, especially when the sharp teeth of the lizard were coming for his face. Thankfully he was saved by their leader otherwise Cloudhawk doubted he would be able to fight off even just one. No one would have been able to save him.

"Quick, open all the cages!" Cloudhawk spun around and threw the key to the others. "Fast as you can!"

With every minute precious they flung open the cages, one by one. The distribution of intelligence was different and uneven and each time they were nearly attacked only to have the ones who understood step in to protect them.

A particularly sturdy cage had its doors flung open. A pack of wolves came screaming out, a flurry of tooth and claw.

Their alpha padded out and stopped by Hyena's side. She was a female, but if she stood on her back legs she was easily ten feet tall. Her body was covered in a sleek white coat that made her look exceedingly majestic and noble.

This one was the most highly evolved of all the creatures here. Physically she was very different from normal wolves, highly agile and capable of explosive force. When she came upon Hyena she stopped as though she recognized him and licked his hand - an elder showing an affection to their brood.

Hyena's heart was in turmoil. He was a patchwork creature, part man and part beast. The blood of these wild animals pumped through his veins. He had the thoughts and memories of a man but he no longer shared their emotions. To his eyes the lives of the wolves was more pleasing.

It filled him with a sense of identity.

Hyena knew this was that condition Roste would talk about, 'Racial Cognitive Disassociation Syndrome', the most serious side-effect of his transformation. It was an unsolvable challenge that Hyena knew meant he would never really belong with humans ever again.