It takes months of planning, of acting, then the perfect opportunity presents itself. The cuckoo walks into the Rangers headquarters looking for Charge. You have the perfect excuse to get closer to it. Herald needs to learn how to fight better. Maybe you can convince it to train you? You follow it as it leaves, heading towards the park. You pull it off of the street, into the air. Heights make it nervous, you know this. That fact is only further confirmed with the way it’s arms wrap tightly around your neck. It feels… surprisingly nice… That doesn’t matter, the mission comes first. You will not fail.
You land on the roof, it’s fist colliding with your jaw. You are shocked. It turns away from you and you can’t keep the snarl from your face, a momentary crack in the mask that is Daniel. He is supposed to be kind, sweet, innocent. You are not. You carefully school your expression back into one of wide eyed shock, apologizing because it is what Daniel would do.
It is hurt, fearful, desperate to find at least one person it can trust. You feel it’s mind brush lightly against your mental shield of golden butterflies searching for any malicious intent. It finds none. You need to be that person that it can rely on. It agrees to train you.
You meet up once or twice a week. You talk, you laugh. It feels real but it is not. You are an actor placed in the role of the innocent. You tell your name, about your brother, your family back in Boston, your cover story. None of it is real. You make a point to let your eyes water, your voice breaking as you lean into the comforting touch placed with care upon your shoulder. Concern is written across its face as it soothes your false worries. It wipes away your tears with a gentle hand, so warm, so… human. But it is not. You know that it can never be. Just a piece of lost property that you are tasked with returning.
You ask it to dinner, it agrees. A small spark of happiness flutters in your chest. It is not real. You are not real. Not in the way you are leading people to believe. Your current name, your current life are nothing but a ruse. The cuckoo is a possession made to trick people into believing that it can actually feel, made for infiltration purposes, to gather information, made to look and act human until you see the rest of it’s skin. The truth of its origin is painted clear as day across its body. Is it starting to trick you too? No. You are the one who is pulling the strings, the one that is better at manipulation and hiding the truth of your reality from the world. You plan, make arrangements for its recapture. Your dinner date would be the easiest way. It’s guard will be down like it always is around you.
That was easier than expected. You dosed its drink with a strong telepathic dampener and tranquilizer. The cuckoo didn’t suspect a thing. You… feel bad for it… watching as it lays on the floor consciousness fading. You call your boss, provide your code, tell her your mission is done. Within minutes your are both loaded into the back of an ambulance, on your way back to the Farm. To the place it fears so much, the place that you call home.
Once you are behind closed doors you lose the act. No more games. It will be nice not to have to keep up appearances anymore. It was exhausting. There were a few times when you could have sworn Argent saw your face fall… but she never acted on it. That one is eerie.
You can't stop your eyes from wandering to the face of the cuckoo. All of its worries are gone. Its is expression relaxed and peaceful. You know that it won’t stay that way. Where you taking it there is only worse to come.
The trip back to the main base of operation is long but uneventful. The cuckoo is kept unconscious the whole time. You’ve forgotten how dull this place was. The outside world is so bright and chaotic. There is always something happening, people screaming, fawning, pretending. Here at least you won’t have to pretend anymore. You are home. A sense of relief and exhaustion washes over you. You were raised at the Farm, trained from a young age to be an agent, like your parents before you. It was what was expected of you and you were good at it. They died when you were still young. Killed in action. You never really had a chance to know them. You know they would be proud. You are young and yet you have succeeded on difficult mission.
You will be trusted with more responsibility from now on. Your next assignment will be taxing. You are put in charge of retraining the cuckoo that you brought back. They thought that it may be more receptive to your presence since it had come to so foolishly trust you, ensnaring your both in a convoluted web of deceit.
“Ease up on the drugs a bit. I want to talk to it.” You can see consciousness and coherent thought rush back to the cuckoo, panic taking over its mind. It struggles against its restraints. The poor thing. You walk over carefully resting your hand on its head, running your fingers though its hair. “Shh, shh… It’s going to be okay.”
You see the exact moment the cuckoo recognizes you. Its eyes going wide, shining with unshed tears. It rasps out your alias its voice hoarse, raw from fear, pain and disuse. It has been unconscious for nearly a week now. Your tone is cold when you answer. Professional, like dealing with an unruly pet. You will make sure that it learns its place thoroughly this time. They wanted you to be in charge of handling this one until it is properly reprogrammed.
Subtle manipulation is an art and one that you have mastered. You do what is expected of you. You taunt it, torment it, break it until its mind is bent beyond recognition and it submits itself willingly to the whims of the Farm. A small part of your mind is screaming, telling your to stop, that hurting him is not the answer. You ignore it. Re-Gene’s are not human and yet it cries, bleeds, begs like any human would, until it can’t anymore.
You have crushed its spirit, destroyed any and all hope it had of mercy in this cruel world. They remove it from your care to have a more experienced agent complete its reprogramming. You wonder what they will do to it, how they will finish the process that you have started. You were only needed to crush its hope. Part of you is scared, worried for the cuckoo who seems so incredibly human. You broke its spirit now they will break its body too.
You resume your training, bettering yourself for the next time your are put into the field. Weeks go by, you catch your mind wandering more frequently to that cuckoo. How soft its hair was, its rare smile, the nervous fidget of its hands when it was anxious. You push the thoughts away, his fate is no concern of yours.
You are called by your superiors, you suppose for another assignment. You have been idle for a long while. You enter the office, where, standing in front of you is the object of your minds captivation. He no longer recognizes you. That hurts more than you would like. At least if he hated you, he would still know who your were.
You stand there staring into his dead, emotionless eyes, scared face, chapped lips. There is no look of recognition across his face, just mindless subservience. When did you start thinking of him as a person? The empty shell that he has become cuts deep, deeper still when you think that you had a part to play in it all. You are the reason he is here. There is nothing there of who he was. Shit, what have you done...
Betrayal has more than one meaning. It is the act of violating a person's trust, turning against allies, but it is also the revelation of a hidden secret. You did more than simply betray the cuckoo when he thought you were a friend… You have betrayed your own heart, kept any and all feelings locked away so no one could see them, not even yourself. What good are emotions when they can be used for torment? Look at what they did to the cuckoo sitting in front of you, his feelings were as real as yours. You hold your breath, close your eyes and force all affection for this cuckoo into a neat little box, burying them deep. After all you are the one that destroyed him. If you get too close to the flames you will burn. You have stepped right into the fire, embracing it as it slowly melted your flesh turning your bones cinders, too late to realise the folly of your actions.