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A Dangerous Path To Take

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Ever since Rhys set foot on Helios he was focused on achieving success. He believed he could pull it off, he had good brains for programming which was proven by his impeccable school record. Straight A’s, overachieving in every single subject, well every single subject that mattered, Rhys never considered physical education among those. He had brains and the necessary wit – he knew when to stay quiet, who to bribe and how to backstab someone – without actually stabbing them in the back. He was never the one for violent solutions. That was a road set for corporate CEOs and Handsome Jack was a good example of that.

But back to Rhys. He had done everything to accomplish his plan of becoming the youngest Head of Programming. He stayed over hours and worked on every single weekend to raise his efficiency, he even got himself noticed by a few ingenious adjustment to the newest line of Hyperion weapons. Rhys also managed to get into the inner circle by bribery, sucking up to Henderson and sabotaging a few of the projects his competition was working on. All of that to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming the big man.

Of course one could go much higher in Hyperion than head of the department, but Rhys was ok with that position. Going any further would require killing and that was definitely out of his safety zone. Besides Rhys had pretty good preservation skills and he knew that going higher and joining the board would end in his untimely death. It was common knowledge that coming into direct contact with Handsome Jack usually ended with a fast retirement, like out into the space fast. If you were lucky you were airlocked, and if being airlocked meant being lucky then Rhys didn’t even want to dwell on other imaginative ways Jack found to get rid of his employees. So yeah, Rhys would be pretty satisfied with being Head of the Department.

Of course achieving such a thing at his age was no small deal and he probably wouldn’t have managed to get as far as he was without the help of his best friend Vaughn. Ever since day one when Rhys entered Hyperion and met his roommate he knew that they would hit it off. Vaughn, contrary to the rest of Hyperion, was a guy with standards. Sure he embezzled some money here and there but he a) never killed anyone and b)never helped with killing anyone and that was a huge, yet bizarre, accomplishment given the many years he spent at the station. Rhys was lucky his best friend was in accounting, which made things a lot easier for him. He knew if someone was low on cash and thus proved an easy target for bribery, also if he himself was short on cash, it was equally easy to get some additional funds. Not big cash, he wasn’t stupid, just the right amount so that no one will notice.

Vaughn was a good and valuable friend, one of the only two he had. The other one was Yvette… she was mostly good, and mostly valuable. Actually she was very helpful in getting some restricted files he needed now and then, but she was a horrible liability to his wallet. If Rhys was counting all the free lunches she coerced out of him then he would probably have enough money to bribe Handsome Jack if he wanted to… okay maybe not as far as that, but close.

Both Vaughn and Yvette had been his closest friends since day one, but even they didn’t know the secret he would die protecting. You see Rhys was excelling in more ways than one, apart from his good brains and a decent survival instinct, he also had powers no other human possessed. Rhys was a siren, which gave him abilities such as  phasewalking or phaseshifting to name a few. So why wouldn’t he put that to his advantage? It’s because it wasn’t an actual advantage, it was a deathly liability.

Sirens were extremely rare, actually more like nonexistent at this point. And a male siren? That was unheard of. Rhys was thankful for that, because he could easily pass off the blue siren marking he had on his torso as ordinary tattoos. He knew that if someone ever found out what he really was, he would end up in  a locked laboratory, with endless tests being performed on him. That’s how most sirens he had heard of died. Some were controlled like animals and used as war weapons, either way the result was usually the same. Rhys didn’t want to end up as a test subject so he vowed never to use the powers given. It was tempting at times, but he never broke the rule, which is also why he wasn’t even exactly sure what powers he possessed. Every siren had a unique set of abilities, but he was okay with living without ever knowing his. It was a fair price to pay for freedom and a carefree life.

Well a carefree life might be a bit of a far-fetched statement. Currently his life was far from that. The day started great for Rhys, he was finally going to get that promotion he worked so hard for. He was going to be rewarded for all the late nights and hardships he went through. With that thought in mind, he went to Henderson’s office, for once with a confident look on his face, only to be shocked by the image of his previous boss, floating carelessly in the dark space behind the grand window. Ok again, careless is not the right word to use at the moment, he needs to work on that.

Rhys stood dumbfounded, his mouth hanging open and eyes wide, he did not understand how this could’ve happen. He never actually liked the man, but what Rhys saw in his mind’s eye was his promotion slowly drifting into the black abyss of space.

“So glad you’re here Rhysie” said a familiar, irritating voice.

Rhys looked in the direction of Henderson’s desk in time to see a man, who up till now was clearly admiring his handiwork, slowly rotating in the chair.

 “Vasquez” Rhys said through clenched teeth.

“That’s Mr. Vasquez kiddo.” The man said standing up.

Rhys hated Vasquez with every fiber of his being, he was an incompetent halfwit who thought it’s cool to imitate Handsome Jack. That’s why he kept using all of the nicknames for which their leader was known for. However, as Jack elicits fear and respect, the only thing Vasquez is able to evoke is a mild nausea from looking at his smug, dumbass face. At least in Rhys opinion.

“I get it you already saw that Henderson had to leave us in a hurry, I bet it was some huge emergency, grave matter I’m sure” he bursted out  laughing. “Get it? Grave matter…..GRAVE.” Vasquez said evidently proud of his joke, but seeing the unimpressed look Rhys was giving him he sobered up a little.

“So Rhys, since Henderson is no longer with us it seems all of his duties fall onto me as I am the NEW head of programming”.

“What?! You’ve got to be kidding me?” Rhys asked angrily soon after receiving a solid punch to his left eye. He grabbed his face hissing in pain, this will surely leave a nasty bruise.

“I would advise you to think twice before speaking to your boss in such a manner. Now where were we? Ah yes my recent promotion. Well what can I say, I deserved it. But don’t think I forgot about you. I believe a promotion is also in order for you. All in all you had some slightly above average ideas and I always believe that initiative should be rewarded.” Vasques said jovially, putting one of his hands on Rhys shoulder, shaking the boy a bit as if to force excitement out of him.

“Promotion?” Rhys did not believe a word he said and if he could, he would cut off Vasquez’s arm off, just to stop the man from touching him. There was no way he would get promoted, going up would only mean becoming the head and Rhys was sure as hell the broad man was not about to share a pretzel with him, let alone his office.

Vasquez had been one of his competitors for the position, but he never treated him as an actual threat. The man had zero programming skills, was obnoxious and everyone hated him, plus he was simply an idiot with a big I. Rhys saw no way in which Vasquez could become head of the department. However, he never considered that someone could simply airlock their boss. But thinking on it now, it actually seemed like a fitting ‘strategy’ for the simpleton Vasquez was. The man was more than 10 years older than him and never achieved anything major, all of his so called achievements were faked, hell even his hair was fake if he were to believe the rumors.

“Yes Rhysie a promotion. I would never forget your contribution to this department. That is why I am promoting you to Head…. Janitor!” he said clapping Rhys so hard on his back that he nearly toppled over.

“Wh…. What?” Rhys asked with an incredulous look. He knew Vasquez was not about to share his power with him, but demoting him to janitor? This was just absurd on so many levels.

“I know I know, this is a big step for you, a lot of responsibilities you’re not sure you can handle. But Rhys” he said placing both of his hands on Rhys arms, looking straight into his eyes “I believe in you and I know you can do it…. Or would you prefer to join Henderson on his early vacation?”

Rhys was absolutely furious, he was not a violent man but now was the first time he imagined killing someone and the thought brought him a shit ton of satisfaction. He imagined peeling that stupid face off of him, together with that sickening smile, and throwing it down to Pandora for the Psychos to do whatever shit they like to do with torn off faces. Yes, that was a nice mental image.

“So what will it be Rhys?” Vasquez asked, his tone changing slightly, facial expression more stern.

Was he able to read minds?

Once again Rhys looked at the window, at Henderson’s body still floating in space, oddly twsisted. He always prided himself on good survival instants and right now they were screaming at him to take the offer. If Vasquez had no problem with killing their boss, what would stop him from doing the same to Rhys? God knows they hated each other’s gut since day one. However, he couldn’t help the feeling of wanting to retaliate. He worked so hard for this and now some shit face halfwit was to take everything from him. Was killing people the only option on Hyperion now? Was he capable of doing so himself?

The answer was no, Rhys was certainly not capable of killing anyone, not even a shitface such as Vasquez.

“Ok” he said showing as little emotion as he could. He sure as hell did not want to give any satisfaction to the man, who was clearly getting off on this.

“Great to hear that Rhys, great to hear that. I knew you’d be the right man for the job. Imagine all that trash you will have to supervise, you’d be like the KING of trash? Now ain’t that cool? You get it? It’s because…”

“I get it” Rhys said fists clenching.

“Ok ok great, report to level -5 at 11 pm. Oh right I forgot to tell you that janitors work on night shifts, you know, we wouldn’t like to bother any decent Hyperion workers. But hey, if you work hard I bet you can become the CJO in no time. Imagine that Rhysie, you as the Chief Janitor Officer, now that’s something! Now off you go and don’t disappoint me!” He said in a sing song voice practically manhandling Rhys out of his office.

As soon as he was out the door, his friend Vaughn came to him and started pestering him about what happened. With an angry yell he kicked the trashcan standing on the corridor.

“Janitor Rhys, please report to corridor I-27 on lever 14. There seems to be a little mishap there.” An electronic voice announced reverberating through all of Hyperion.

This was the WORST day ever.

—o.o— 15 hours and 2 whiskey bottles later –o.o—

Rhys was currently quite inebriated. Before he started his shift at his ‘new job’ he met with Vaughn and Yvette to work on a new plan of action. There was no way in hell he would stay idle moping the floors of Hyperion till the day he turned grey. Unsurprisingly instead of working on some solution right away the three of them decided now was a good time to get piss drunk. Rhys gulped down more shots than he ever remembered drinking. It seemed that the alcohol was helping their imagination in working out the best ways to get rid of the problem they were facing. Most o them revolved around different ways to kill Vasquez, others around blackmail and a few involved making a video of Vasquez trying to imitate Jack, as he always tried to do, which in their minds resulted in his sudden demise. Everything was good when it involved the man dying, but dying by the hand of his idol was even more satisfactory than the rest.

It was 4 am in the morning and Rhys was making his was, mostly in a straight line, for the main assembly hall, where two golden statues of Handsome Jack were standing menacingly on either side of the entrance. Some said they were build to make the workers feel as if their every move was being watched, but in Rhys opinion Jack hand simply a huge ego, and 50 feet tall statues were always complimentary to an ego like that.

Rhys made his way to the small podium between the statues, on which the CEO gave a few speeches on special occasions. When he reached the podium, he suddenly let out an angry shout, more like a roar, broke his mop into two and send the bottom part flying. For the first time in a long while Rhys felt fury taking over him, he saw red. The newly appointed janitor started yelling and cursing, spilling out all of his anger and resentment.

“Fuck you asshole!” he yelled remembering his earlier conversation with the new Head of Programming, especially his smug face when he announced Rhys ‘promotion’.

“I have enough of fucking backstabbers like you. Is airlocking someone the only fucking shit you are capable of doing? I suppose with the brain of yours it must hurt to even breath, with all the thinking involved in the process. I mean with the fucking breath-in, breath-out, breath-in, breath-out it must be chaos in that small space your brain occupies within your humongous skull!” Rhys hollered at the top of his lungs. Part of it was the alcohol, making him lose control like that, but part of it was actual anger, no, not anger, rage that he was feeling at the moment. He pointed an accusatory finger somewhere in front of him, imagining Vasquez standing there. His vision was so blurry he wouldn’t even know if the guy was actually standing right in front of him.

The comment about Vasquez big ass head made him remember the first day he met the man. He remembered him saying that with a face like that, there’s nothing standing between him and a promotion. Well if you had no brains you had to rely on something, then again in Rhys opinion there was nothing handsome about the man what so ever. He saw poles with better looks and more natural charm.

“Yeah that’s right, you think you’re handsome, pffft with that huge forehead of yours? Please, and how about that hair of yours? I bet it’s all implants, that’s what it is.”

Rhys knew that he was rumbling like a stupid idiot, alcohol clouding his brain, but then again he was sober enough to know that no one in his right mind would venture to the assembly hall at 4 am in the fucking morning. Or would they?

—o.o— in the meantime –o.o—

A sudden beeping noise made the man stir in his sleep, as soon as the first conscious thought seeped into his brain he was standing wide awake, two guns drawn and pointing at opposite directions from one another. After a moment he realized the strange noise was just some reminder he had set on his computer. It kept beeping annoyingly demanding attention. The man holstered the weapons, dismissed the reminder and looked at his computer displaying the time. It was almost 4 am in the morning.

“Fuuuuuck!” he cursed under his breath, regarding his reflection on the huge window behind him. Clearly he fell asleep face first on his keyboard, as an array of key mark was left on his face.

“I need to take better care of my beauty sleep.” he said to himself and then looked into his reflection and, as if speaking to it, he added “You ain’t called handsome for nothing, learn how to live with the burden.”

Yes Handsome Jack was known for being handsome, among other things. He was also a bit paranoid and had huge trust issues, his real face under the mask was a constant reminder not to trust anyone but himself. He knew it was the right choice even if it resulted in him often waking up with his two favorite guns loaded and ready for some action. Jack was also known for his ego, there was a shit ton of merchandise with his handsome mug on it, there were drinks named after him, oversized golden statues standing here and there, just as a standard reminder of who was the boss.

Jack prided himself on a great sense of humor, it wasn’t his fault some people just didn’t appreciate it. Last night for instance he called in all of the members of the board to discuss a pressing issue, when the all gathered he started walking around the office in circles, with slow and deliberate strides. The topic of his ongoing monologue was the issue of loyalty. Every time he stood behind one of the members he said something like ‘however it seems some people don’t share this value, some people may not believe in it, SOME people may go against the golden rule of loyalty’  then he stood behind the desk, looking each and every one of them in the eyes. When everyone seemed to be waiting for him to draw his gun, Jack gave the biggest grin ever, like teeth and all, and said ‘luckily none of them are you, just wanted to make that perfectly clear, thanks for coming guys, your presence was much appreciated’.

He still had tears coming from his eyes every time he remembered the fear stricken faces. How could they not find it funny? It was motherfuckin’ hilarious, in Jack’s opinion at least.

So Handsome Jack - vicious, slightly paranoid, changing mood faster than a teenager on her prom night with her period raging on – had a brilliant sense of humor. He was also handsome. That’s Handsome Jack in a nutshell.

Not many things surprised Jack, he didn’t like surprises in general, most people knew that after his last birthday party and a small mishap with the ‘stripper cake’. Someone who planned it definitely didn’t account for Jack’s paranoia, because someone jumping out of his fucking cake was not on Jack’s to do list. Needless to say if the stripper could argue, she’d definitely protest that the stunt she did was way below her pay. Not that she can argue anymore though.

So imagine Jack’s surprise when, crossing the hall with his two golden doppelgangers, he gets hit on the head with a mop. A fucking mop of all things. He had put his guard down, no one was ever here at this time of night, he should know as he often made such trips to his apartment – he really had to work on that beauty sleep. Furious he turns in the direction from which the assault-mop came from and he notices a lanky figure looking straight at him.

“Fuck you asshole!” the noodle figure yells. Jack is so stunned he actually turns around just to be certain that it was directed at him. He feels a bit like the kids at school, who always look around the class in hopes that it wasn’t them the teacher was pointing at. But he was Handsome Jack and he did not hope, he crushed hope, that’s what he did (he made a mental note to remember that one, it was catchy).

“I have enough of fucking backstabbers like you. Is airlocking someone the only fucking shit you are capable of doing. I suppose with the brain of yours it must hurt to even breath, with all the thinking involved in the process. I mean with the fucking breath-in, breath-out, breath-in, breath-out it must be chaos in that small space your brain occupies within your humongous skull!”

Ok. Assaulting him with a mop was one thing, yelling was another, insulting his intelligence – that was a whole different level of what the fuck – but insulting THE face was taking it way too far. In all honesty each of those would grant the kid a sudden life-shortening experience. But now Jack was totally pissed, no one has ever been so audacious and this was what, a fucking janitor of all things?

He drew one of his guns, the elemental one that promised a more painful death, and pointed it straight at the kids face. He expected him to cower at the idea of his imminent death, instead the janitor just pointed an accusatory finger at him. Or was it somewhere above him? He couldn’t tell.

 “Yeah that’s right, you think you’re handsome, pffft with that huge forehead of yours? Please and how about that hair of yours? I bet it’s all implants, that’s what it is.”

OK ok ok, big forehead, hair implants? Forget the gun, this was personal now. He will kill the kid with his bare hands, watch the last breath escape his lanky figure, eyes bulging out as pressure accumulates in his whole face. Maybe he’ll let him take a breath every time he was about to tip over just to start the procedure again. With that resolution in mind, he began advancing at the idiot who clearly had no survival instincts. Nobody even looks at Jack the wrong way and lives to tell the tale. The kid was going down.

“You are the worst piece of shit Vasquez, when I’m done with you, your own mother won’t recognize you!”

Vasquez? Jack was certain he heard that name before, where was it. He though hard about that, all in all he had more important things to store in his brain, some corporate lackey was definitely not on the top of his priorities list. But somehow that name sounded familiar… big forehead, hair implants. Suddenly Jack widened his eyes, realization downing on him.

—o.o— Rhys –o.o—

Rhys was almost hyperventilating at this point. He wanted to continue with his rant but a sudden loud rumble erupting from somewhere near the podium stopped him from doing so. He jumped startled, for the first time seeing an actual figure standing before him. Everything was so blurry that he couldn’t’ make out the strangers features. He couldn’t say who it was and that worried him greatly. What if they went to Vasquez and retold him everything. He’ll be venturing the space together with Henderson for all eternity or however long it takes a corpse to dissolve in space.

“You were talking about fucking Wallethead. Ahahhah that was a good one. You know for a moment there kiddo I thought you meant me, now that would be like fucking crazy, am I right? Don’t answer that, of course I’m right. Anywaaaays….”

Rhys felt the stranger approaching him and grabbing at his janitors vest to look at his name tag.

“Chad… wow your parents must have thought looong and hard on that one, huh cupcake? So Chad I like your attitude, if you weren’t such a spiderant on those long wobbly legs of yours I would have considered you for a body guard. But seeing your rather delicate disposition I think you are good at what you’re doing. Just don’t let those mops fly around haphazardly mkay?”

The stranger said a lot of things and fast at that. Rhys could only make out the name Chad, which was the previous janitor. He briefly wondered if he was also airlocked by Vasquez in order to make this position available for Rhys – do janitors get airlocked at all?

“Yo, cupcake, you with me?” the man asked rudely snapping his fingers in front of his face. “I know that seeing me is usually a shocker, but I was hoping that with all that zest in you, you would at least muster a ‘yes sir’ for me.”

Rhys tried to focus on the face in front of him but it was no use, damn he was in for a huge hangover tomorrow.

“You…” Rhys said finally trying to focus his vision “talk a lot… but don’t worry, it’s ok, you have a nice voice, so don’t worry about it.” He said eventually, not even sure of what he was saying at that point.

The man in front of him was silent for a moment and then suddenly bent in half and started laughing like a maniac. After a moment he turned around and started walking in a different direction, his voice slowly fading away.

“Man Chad, I wish I had more janitors on the board meetings, that would be so much fun. Anyways nice talking to you cupcake.”

Rhys only managed a quiet and confused “;m not Chad” but the stranger did not hear him. Only the sound of retreating footsteps could be heard reverberated throughout the hall.




Author's comment:

Sooo what do you think? And before you come up with any conclusions – this is not a Cinderella story so there will be changes soon. And yes, just as the tags indicate, Rhys still doesn’t have his cybernetic arm, but he will, in due time. It’s gonna be a slow burn with plot – yay for ploy.

Hope you guys enjoyed it. Sorry for my poor English.