In Loumaruk, a caste system was instituted a long time ago. When certain members of society bred with one another, their children were dangerously powerful and out of control. An entire generation nearly destroyed the country. The Imperial military came in and killed all mixed breeds, dangerous or not, and instituted a caste system to keep the country safe. For hundreds of years the caste system has stayed in place and the Imperial government had ruled with a violent control over the people.
As a young child, Holly was taken from an orphanage for those of dubious parentage by an organization called Apex. She, with four others, was brainwashed and programmed with a series of missions to overthrow the Imperial government and to install Apex in the throne.
Upon the start of the story, Holly remembers nothing of her past.
She wakes up on a boat, in the hands of a military team belonging to the country across the channel from hers, called Chytus.
She is told that she has been taken into protective custody and that she has murdered the Emperor of Loumaruk.
Her only memory is of a brief struggle, with no specifics, only that she was fighting for her life.
The military force beings her to the Czar of Chytus, who enlightens her to the contents of her past and updates her on what is currently happening.
• Her home country is currently in a state of anarchic chaos where the generals of the military are in control, and where there is order, it is by force of a police state.
• He explains how his forces became involved, captured her, brought her to this place.
• He explains that she is the product (weapon) of from some organization (Apex, though the Czar does no know the name of it.)
• He explains that his intel group is in the process of tracking down this organization.
• He explains that this organization took her and four others when they were children and trained them through a process and combination of brainwashing, isolation, and mental/emotional manipulation, in order for them to become a team of assassins so that this organization may assume control of Loumaruk.
• He explains that this group took advantage of it the power of mixed-blood children by implanting a regulation device inside them and then programming the children over a series of years so that their brains shut off the conscious parts and they essentially became machines that would carry out specific missions when given certain commands, or when certain words were said.
• He explains that the other members of her assassin team were killed while executing the mission.
• He explains that he intends to keep her in a facility for prisoners of war until part or all of the following goals are achieved:
• His intel group tracks down this organization
• His medical team is able to tell whether she is programmed for any further missions
• His team disables Holly’s programming/alters he implanted regulator so that she can never use her abilities
• She is not told what happens after these goals are achieved.
She is kept in Chytussian custody for weeks, and begins to consider the possibility of being forced to live out her entire life there.
She hears nothing of the outside world, except for snippets of gossip from the Czar’s medical team as they work around her.
They all treat her as though she is merely an object of study, not an actual human.
All but one psychotherapist who works with her on a very personal level.
From the gossip she overhears, she gets the impression that things in Loumaruk are getting worse, as is Chytus’ conflict with neighboring country, Goujia.
One night, Goujia launches a siege attack on the POW facility.
A rebel force from Loumaruk uses the siege as a distraction to kidnap Holly.
They come to her room in the middle of the night and take her.
Her psychotherapist is killed in the process of trying to protect her.
She awakens in a state of confusion and fear because she is blindfolded and bound, and her power of energy manipulation is desperately out of control.
Several voices reassure her that she is surrounded by friends and allies who don’t want to hurt her, and the bindings are for her own protection; physical movement causes more chaos in relation to her power.
Her power is in a state of chaos because the rebels removed her regulating implant.
This makes her furiously frustrated, because she was far less dangerous with the implant in; because she underwent surgery; because she has no fucking clue what’s going on; however, what’s done is done.
Her hopes are that the implant removal may deactivate her programming, but it becomes apparent that this is not the case after speaking with someone from the medical unit in the camp.
After a few days, Holly has enough control over her ability to take off the blindfold and be physically active.
She tours the rebel camp, getting an understanding of the area, meeting people, and getting a feel for her place in the community.
She meets with the Committee, which leads the rebel force.
They explain that they rescued her from the Chytussians who had no intent of ever releasing her, so that they could use her as a weapon against the police state that Loumaruk has degraded into, once she was fully rehabilitated.
It becomes clear that her rehabilitation may take longer than previously anticipated, as expressed by Eliza, whose analysis of Holly suggests she isn’t even close to ready for combat.
Eliza is also of mixed blood and has devoted her life to the medical study of those of her type.
She and Holly bond and become lovers/mates/together.
Eliza and the rest of the medical unit are aware that Holly’s programming still lies dormant within her, as it is not mechanical, but is a product of genetic and biological engineering and manipulation.
As a result of this, her access to certain parts of the camp is restricted and she is not allowed to leave at all, even accompanied.
Many civilian rebels/refugees/people in the camp fear her.
Only Eliza seems not to fear her at all.
One day, the rebels bring in a man whose presence causes Holly to black out.
When she awakens, she and eliza got to meet with him in his cell, and she recognizes him from her past as one of the people who brainwashed and programmed her.
He laughs (he seems to be losing his mind in part) and makes note of the significance of the two women pairing off. (Some note about making their own new caste/class/race?)
He tells Holly that there are more missions in her programming, she has not yet exhausted her purpose, and that Apex is everywhere, waiting for the right moment to activate her, to make sure things go as planned. This terrifies her.
He then gives her a prompt which activates some programming that results in several members of the rebel force wrestling her down, when she regains consciousness.
She is told that after being prompted, she went on a psychotic rampage of some sort.
It is decided that as long as the programming exists, she cannot be expected to fight.
Within the next two days, a middle-aged woman is brought in by the rebels.
This woman is supposed to be able to help Holly disable her programming from within.
Nobody really knows who this woman is or where she came from. No one trusts her.
She is helpful to Holly in the respects of training and understanding her programming. What they do is called un-training.
One day, for un-training, the figure leads Holly out of the camp.
She reveals that she is a sleeper from within Apex. She worked within Apex so that they would think they were accomplishing their goals, but is ultimately working against them.
Holly isn’t sure whether or not to believe her, but is prevented from killing her because she has a list of the prompts in her programming, and she will reveal them, one at a time, as Holly overcomes certain milestones in her un-training.
Holly and the woman walk on eggshells around each other for the next month until the woman gives Holly a prompt that sets her off on a specific mission, which the woman secretly programmed Holly with years ago when she was still being trained.
This mission will thoroughly destroy Apex beginning with its leader and ending with her girlfriend.
The un-training enables her to be conscious of her actions and struggle with the programming, but ultimately, not overcome it. She is aware of her actions but has no control over them.
At the end of her mission, Eliza stops Holly by killing her, in order to keep her from killing loads of people.
• Holly begged her girlfriend to stop her, since she herself was unable to.
• they bury her in the rebel camp after her girlfriend comes to power as the interim ruler of the country.
ExcerptI have this dream where I'm in a big park, which has stadium seating in bench-form all around the outside, in an enormous circle. I am running. I am running across these benches as hard and as fast as I can.
I think I am being chased.
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you're running but you're going painfully slowly and you can't speed up no matter how hard you try?
This dream isn't like that at all. In this dream, I am swift and I never feel breathless. I am running so fast. I feel free and powerful and quick enough to dodge lightning. And I know that whoever is chasing me will never catch me. It's a feeling pf freedom and independence and peace.
The first thing I'm aware of is my heartbeat. It's in my ears and my eyes and my whole body is my heart, beat-beat-beating. That feeling fades until all I feel is my body, swaying with the motion of the ocean. Then, fully awake and fully aware, I open my eyes.