cosipotente: artist: natalie shau (Default)
cosipotente ([personal profile] cosipotente) wrote2014-09-15 09:05 pm

young volcanoes

PG-13 ; Minho centric
summary: It was unfortunate Minho's powers involved fires, and not seeing the future.
word count: 3,751 AU. DEATH.










"you turn us loose in the night." (blink-182 -- natives)







Minho shivered in one violent convulsion, chilly breezes licking across his skin. Even through layers of military issued fatigues, he could feel winter's biting touch. But he didn't stop running. Snow fell in light sheets, melting on his shaven head and the bald heads of the other young recruits running in solid, straight formations through the dense woods. Puffs of breath fogged the dimly lit air, and there was nothing but the crunch of snow (a steady, if muffled, beat in the darkness) beneath their feet.

Chests, male and female alike, heaved around him matching his own labored pattern, but they all ran on, moving to the quiet marching songs falling from trembling, chapped lips. Minho didn't know how long they all had been running, or how much longer they had to run, but the burning in his calves, thighs, and lungs spoke of hours of moving through the snow. He kept pace though, at least until their Commanding Officer's voice broke through the cold night air in a sharp, resounding bark.

"Ready!"

Minho stopped with the rest of his line (twenty other fourteen year olds just like him) as they took their defensive stances: fists at eye level, feet shoulder width apart, and knees bent. Tense and ready he waited, drawing in measured breaths until he was breathing evenly, no longer gasping for icy air. What little light they had from the distant camp's towering stadium lamps blacked out, drowning the forest in a vast darkness.

"Begin!"

Begin what? Minho thought, shifting uneasily with the rest of his line. A restless tension stirred among them all, Minho could feel it crackle along his skin raising the hairs on his arms and neck. There had been no mention of a drill when they had been rousted from their bunks at 0400 sharp; they were usually given notice of drills. But no one dared speak, not even whisper, and there was nothing but the sound of slow breathing and the forest shifting, crackling around them.

Groaning.

Minho stiffened. It was nearly imperceptible, but the groaning was there, filling the quiet night air. He cocked his head slightly to the right, listening, and found the sounds of footfalls shuffling clumsily in the snow beneath the groaning. The sun was rising ahead of them, and he focused on the orange and charcoal horizon. Moving among the trees were dark blotches ambling closer and closer to them.

Someone screamed at the furthest end of the line, long and gut-wrenching, and it made Minho's heart hammer against his ribs. This was no drill, and the realization was sinking in fast for all of them. He could see, from the corner of his eye, some of his barrack mates pale in understanding. Still no one moved, stances steady and waiting until the things that had been lurking behind the trees crested a small hill and were completely visible in the gray morning light.

They were people, Minho observed, draped in hospital gowns lurching forward in slow, shambling movements. They were gaunt, skin a livid red around their eyes, noses, and mouths, most likely caused from the trek in the snow. Some tripped and fell, but got back up, barely registering their falls. They seemed to notice nothing: not the cold, not the snow, not even their barely covered bodies.

"Are we supposed to fight them?" A girl on Minho's left whispered to no one in particular, voicing what they were all thinking.

No one answered her. Minho didn't know what to say as the screams from the end grew louder and more frequent. He broke his gaze from the people ambling ever closer and looked to his left, tall enough to peer over some of the recruits, and wished he hadn't. Blood was spilt in great patches over the snow, joining limbs and heads and bits of flesh where the gowned people were ripping into off-guard recruits. The forest was fast becoming a symphony of groans and screams, thuds and crunches.

"Kill them!" Someone at Minho's right barked thickly, voice cracking with the command. He glanced at the boy who had given the order, watching him shake for a moment before stepping forward and throwing a wild punch at one of the men who had ambled closer to the line. The blow bounced off the man's cheek and he was quick to grab the boy's arm, jerking it clean out of the socket and biting into it as if it were the drumstick of a chicken. Blood sprayed hot against Minho's face and he stumbled back a few steps, falling into the snow as the others rushed to fight.

What are we fighting? He thought, distanced from the bloody skirmish before him. He sat in a daze, questions bubbling in his mind, but he had no one to ask for answers. Everyone was dying as more gowned people made their way into the fight, onto the young recruits and onto the ground gnashing and clawing. Minho observed this passively, almost outside of himself from his spot in the snow, blood drying against his skin.

Someone crossed in front of him and he followed thin legs layered in fatigues up and up until he was staring at a blank faced boy with eyes consumed in black, as if his irises had spilled out to consume the whites of his eyes. Blood was splattered across his face and pieces of his thin cheek and chin were ripped away, but he stood like nothing was wrong. And Minho knew this boy, had slept across from him in the barracks, and had considered him a friend. Minho had laughed, had cried, with this boy before him.

Kim Kibum was neither laughing nor crying now, despite the chunks of meat missing from his face. Instead, he was reaching for Minho with desperate hands, and reality came back to Minho then, freezing cold and cacophonous as people died around him. He rolled away as Kibum lunged, face stinging as he hit the snow and then pushed himself up to face the other recruit.

"Kibum," Minho's voice shook but it was congenial, warm even, as he hoped he could talk the madness out of Kibum. "This isn't you."

It wasn't Kibum at all who Minho wrestled to the ground, and it absolutely was not Kibum who Minho set aflame. He focused on the heat pulsing through his blood, directed it into his hands, and pushed them onto Kibum—burning him up from the inside. No, the thing Minho gently laid dead in the snow was certainly not Kim Kibum. It couldn't be, for his sanity's sake.

He stood, despite the shaking in his legs, and looked around at the bloody mess of a fight that was going on. They were all under-prepared and under-trained for this, whatever it was. In the six months they had all been training on the base, nothing could have prepared any of them for what was clawing and biting at them.

Hardly anyone was using their abilities to fight back.

Minho was wrenched literally from his thoughts by someone grabbing hold of his arm in a painful, iron grip. He threw a punch without looking, boney knuckles slamming into a sharp cheekbone. He watched his bunk mate, a boy with large brown eyes who enjoyed crooning obnoxiously at the top of his lungs, fall back into the snow. Kim Jonghyun cradled his cheek and sobbed openly in great, shaking hiccups.

But Minho had no time to comfort him (didn't think he even could) as a few of the gowned people who had followed Jonghyun drew near. The closest one was a little girl, bobbed black hair flying as she moved towards him in a wobbly gait with outstretched arms.

What am I supposed to do? She's just a baby.

Her mouth, ringed in red like she had made a mess of eating some sort of candy, went for his kneecap and Minho nearly let her have it. However, seconds before she could bite, he kicked her away. Jonghyun scrambled over to her before she could rise and snapped her neck easily; his teenaged hands were large, and her neck was so tiny.

Minho could tell Jonghyun couldn't bring himself to use his power on her; he could have split her head open with a whisper.

"It's the only way they stay dead." Jonghyun stated, wiping the sweat on his forehead. The action ended up smearing blood across his skin.

They shared a look, a silent decision passing between them. They would fight.

And they did for two hours in the freezing, red tinted snow. Their group of twenty had dwindled to ten, but Minho only focused on the infected. That's what he had decided, watching from the corners of his eyes as some bit and scratched at them: they were infected with something.

The fight—the test—ended anticlimactically, leaving Minho, Jonghyun, and three others standing bloody, but unharmed. No one came to tell them this was just a new hellish virtual training they weren't briefed on. But Minho knew it was real; the blood on his hands was all too warm.

A siren went off in the distance, a high and loud whine in the quiet morning. Soldiers, at least fifteen of them, spilled into the forest with rifles raised and steadily aimed. Minho clenched his fist, body still singing with adrenaline, more than ready to fight. The Soldiers made no move to approach them though, just merely stared, and Minho realized the guns were for his safety should any of the others rise to fight again. He looked at Jonghyun but the older boy merely tipped his shoulder, pallid face empty. Minho wondered what sort of sight he made with his gangly frame, no doubt covered in blood, and if his big brown eyes were as wild as the eyes of the girl beside him. Or if his face was as blank as Jonghyun's, eyes empty and unfocused. He pondered all this silently as the soldiers stared them down. What do they see? He thought.

Doctors bundled in layers of thick coats broke through the line of Soldiers. They snapped latex gloves on their hands and approached them with kind smiles. Minho's lips didn't even twitch when two stepped up to him. One Doctor was a man, salt and pepper hair clashing oddly with his barely wrinkled face. Beside him was a portly woman with a small, pinched face clucking her tongue lightly as she scribbled on the clipboard in her gloved hand. Minho, however, paid more attention to the Hazmat personnel in their bright, canary yellow suits and tinted helmets as they picked up bodies—or what pieces were left—and laid them in long black bags two at time.

"Choi Minho?" The male Doctor asked, catching Minho's attention.

His only response was to blink then shiver. He was too wet with chilled blood and too cold from the snow to do anything else.

The female Doctor looked over a sheet of paper on her clipboard.

"High endurance and a fast adapter, his bills of health always come back perfect." She read, brisk and mechanical, through chattering teeth.

"You're a good boy then, huh?" The old man chirped almost jovially and clapped Minho on the back.

Minho didn't respond; didn't know how he should. He had just spent what felt like hours killing people, some of whom he had considered friends, others he had never met. Now he was being called a good boy. He remained silent.

The woman closed her notepad and the man signaled to a Soldier, making a circle in the air with his index finger. He turned back to Minho with a wide smile that showed off his wrinkles and made him look his age.

"Congratulations, Soldier." He said warmly.

Soldier. The word ricocheted hollowly in Minho's head; he was no longer some recruit but a soldier. He made to question the doctors but his words died in a gasp as he was hauled up by his armpits by the Soldier the Doctor had beckoned and thrust into the back of a jeep with Jonghyun and the others.

. . . . .


Tiny, freezing breezes snaked beneath the tarp covering the flatbed of the truck as it sped along, seeping into Minho's still wet clothes. The vehicle bounced a few times, jarring him and making his head bounce off the thin metal pole he had laid it against. He picked his head up and turned to look at Jonghyun. He was shaking despite the warmth of the heater blasting through the small truck. Minho's own body was racked with cold chills, so much so his teeth clattered. They were all shaking and shivering, even when blankets were passed around.

"This is not the reality I wanted," Jonghyun mumbled sluggishly. His favorite punchline sounded placid when he wasn't yelling it for the world to hear. "I don't feel so good." He whispered, head falling against Minho's shoulder.

Minho languidly lifted his hand and rubbed Jonghyun's bald head. He was too tired for much else.

They rode in minimal silence; the only sounds were of the truck's diesel engine rumbling and the tires crunching the snow. Minho fell asleep somewhere during the drive, propped against the tailgate of the truck. He was enervated, every limb like lead, and even his spiraling thoughts and questions couldn't stop his eyes from closing.

His reprieve was short-lived; it felt like he had only been sleeping for mere seconds as someone shook him awake. The tailgate was opened, the tarps were lifted, and they were ushered out by gruff voiced Soldiers and made to stand single file: the two girls, Jonghyun, and Minho at the back.

Minho peered over Jonghyun's head at the building before them. It was a towering, three-storied, gray bricked structure. Long windows with bars were set on the face of each story and behind the glass and bars; Minho could see the silhouettes of people standing like guards. He looked up at the rounded minaret sitting atop the building, at the guns trained on them through the slit windows, black barrels outlined in the overcast sky.

"Before any of you can proceed into the Facility," a tall, muscular Soldier barked from a head of them. "You will be stripped, checked for injuries, and hosed down."

The door to the facility opened and a four man Hazmat crew came out. They were as fully dressed as the crew from the forest, oxygen tanks strapped to their backs while full face shields hid their features. They weren't being checked for injuries; they were being checked for infection, Minho realized.

One of the crew approached the girl at the front of their line, speaking to her in hushed tones until she shed her layered uniform. Minho watched her thin back ripple with shivers, skin growing taught with the cold. She held her arms out at her sides as the Hazmat crewman inspected her. He turned her head from side to side, turned her arms over to inspect the tops and undersides. He prodded her ribs, squeezing as he checked for breaks. He stepped away and nodded to the two crewmen with the hose.

A cloud of steam rushed out with the water and Minho couldn't help the tiny spark of relief that flooded him; he had been thinking they would spray them down with cold water. A towel was wrapped around the girl and a soldier lifted her in his arms, cradling her like a swaddled child. He carried her into the Facility, and the Hazmat crew moved onto the next girl.

She was stripped, checked, hosed, and carried off in the same way.

The crewman waved Jonghyun forward, speaking to him softly when he reached the inspection spot. Minho watched him struggle with his clothes, fingers clumsy with the buttons. They all watched him wrestle with his clothes until he got them off in a haphazard pile around his feet. The crew stepped back, and in the silence Minho could hear the distinct click of guns being cocked.

Jonghyun was infected. Minho didn't need to see what the Hazmat crew were looking at to know. There was a large, gaping hole on his shoulder, the flesh around it red and green. Another hole—bite—was on his thigh. He had been infected this whole time. Minho had a quick flash of Jonghyun's face from earlier in the forest, vacant and sallow. Minho had thought Jonghyun was going through shock, but he was in fact in the throes of infection.

Minho was shaken out of his thoughts by a gunshot ringing out, cracking through the silence. Jonghyun's head snapped back before his body followed dropping him hard onto the ground. A halo of blood pooled around his head, seeping into the snow, and Minho stared, morbidly transfixed by the image.

"Choi Minho!" A Hazmat crewwoman shouted, her light voice echoing around everyone gathered.

He stood rooted to the spot, legs too numb to carry him past Jonghyun's felled body and to the inspection point. She shouted his name again, but Minho did not move, only shaking his head from side to side. Haven't you done enough? Minho wanted to ask, but his voice was caught in his throat. What was wrong with these people? He had killed people, snapped his best friend's neck, and now, now they wanted him to walk past Jonghyun like he wasn't lying dead in the snow.

Minho choked on a sob.

The hammer of a gun clicked and his name was shouted again, the woman's voice harsh and demanding.

Minho moved like he was on autopilot, tears forgotten, and put one foot in front of the other until he passed Jonghyun's feet. Only then did he look back at his dead friend, the way his large eyes were open and unseeing. He could see the bullet hole in Jonghyun's forehead, the way it puckered along the edges and tapered into the blackness that was Jonghyun's skull. The image burned its way into Minho's memory and he saw it behind every blink.

He stumbled to the Hazmat crew, numbly shedding his clothes. It felt like he was shedding pieces of himself, stripping away what felt like his humanity. There was no way he could be human, not after what he did today.

"Arms out," The woman instructed and Minho did so dumbly, not feeling the pokes and prods as she inspected him head to toe.

A hot spray of water woke Minho from his daze and he hissed. His skin stung, nerves numbed from the cold now waking with a vengeance. His whole body suddenly ached; muscles no longer under the influence of adrenaline and sheer will power shook and throbbed. Even his closely trimmed toenails hurt and he couldn't help the tears that spilled hot down his cheeks. The water felt good though, despite the clean, burning scent of disinfectant that wafted with it.

A blanket was hung over his shoulders, the rough material scratching at his hypersensitive skin. But it was warm, and Minho found himself wrapping it closer against his body. He was lead forward towards to the Facility door. Its metal front was painted with a large, opened eye, the iris of which was solid black. The letters I-E-S, painted in bold, red font sat within the open eye.

He had seen the emblem on a few older Soldiers during the first few months of his training. They always sat together for chow time, never socialized with anyone other than their group or superiors. Rumors and whispers had run rampant about them, all of them unflattering and ghoulish. No one wanted to be part of the Infection Eradication Service project team.

The door flung open on quiet hinges, revealing a team of waiting Doctors. They ushered him inside with welcoming smiles. Minho hated them all in that instant. He hated how they smiled like they didn't know what he had just been through. They smiled like they didn't know Jonghyun was lying lifeless in the snow right outside of their doors. But he kept those thoughts to himself as he followed behind the doctors.

Behind him, the door to the Facility closed.


. . . . .


Minho jerked awake, sweaty and panting. Frightened. Disoriented. He breathed hard through his nose, the stale air of the halfway house orienting him, driving away the last vestiges of the nightmare. The same nightmare he had been having since that early morning three years ago. Minho sat up in his bed, peered across the darkened room. He made out the barely visible outline of his sleeping roommate, meaning Minho hadn't woke him with his dreaming.

Reaching for the hem of his shirt, Minho pulled it over his head, tossing it to the floor. It landed with soft thwap being soaked through as it was with sweat. Minho groped in the dark behind him for his pillow, flipping the wet side over, and then laid back down.

Minho's fingers traced over the faintly raised edges of the tattoo on his rib cage, a small thing made up of a string of letters broken up by a bar code. It once marked him as property, as a Soldier, now it marked him as some sort of survivor, some sort of victim. He closed his eyes, the image of Jonghyun laying in a halo of blood vivid behind his lids.

He was lucky. The guilt clawing up his insides said otherwise, but it was true, as much as he didn't want to admit it. Minho, and a hand full of others, had been pulled from the wreckage when the Facilities fell. They became wards of the state, put into halfway houses throughout the city until the system could place them with families, or in government housing for the older Soldiers who were legal adults.

Dropping his hand away from his tattoo, he brought it to scrub through his hair—he had that now, black hair cropped close to his head.

Tomorrow, Minho would be leaving this halfway house for a foster home downtown. He turned on his side, reaching out to the nightstand at his immediate right, and fingered the packet of papers there. His release forms were among the stapled sheets, but his entire history was there too. A nervous tension gnawed at the pit of his stomach, like hunger, but more intensely.

Tomorrow would bring him either freedom, or another cage. It was unfortunate his powers involved fires, and not seeing the future.




Author Note: This was originally meant to be my 2010 SBB entry for [profile] shinee_replay, but I didn't make the deadline. I kept it hidden for three years, tweaking it every so often. It went from a zombie fic to be set in Disney World then to a apocalypse sort of fic, and now here it is as a mutant fic.

Special thanks to [profile] mrsatterthwaite for the awesome beta-ing two years ago. [profile] quellazaire for the hand holding. [personal profile] sacryde for dealing with my whining about another piece that I was working on before deciding to finish this one. Thanks ♥

started: 2010.04.17; finished: 2013.11.26

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