Your story begins with a fist. If you’re wondering whose fist it is, then it ceases to matter after the fist hits your face. The cold air must have lowered the sensitivity in your face, however, since you feel only pressure and a slight warmth on your skin. You hear a crunch. Your nose is likely broken, but you pay it no matter. Now, your fist has made contact with the face of another. This is the face of a bearded man. His hair feels soft in comparison to the bone with which your fingers soon become well-acquainted. A howling grunt emanates from the man. One down.
You open your eyes again. A blink has been completed. You make note of the 0.3 millisecond timespan of the blink itself. That means it has been 0.5 seconds since your nose broke. You count your adversaries. They count five. The man you just struck is still falling. When he hits the ground, they will count four. That’s still too many. Your eyelid begins to lower again. Your nose broke 0.9 seconds ago. Your leg extends upward to one of the slimmer men. You twist your heel toward his collarbone and pull your leg down. Contact has been made. Your foot feels warm against the man’s collapsing frame. You are barefoot. This is strange, but you are not swayed. Two down. Your arms swing out toward a common point: the center adversary’s temples. Contact has been made here, as well. His skull begins to collapse. Your eyes open. Your nose has now been broken for approximately 1.2 seconds. Three down.
The other two men are beginning to realize what they are witnessing, but it’s too late for them. Their guns are 0.4 seconds away, and your fingers reach their eyes just as your foot contacts the ground only 0.2 seconds later. Your fingers hook into their sockets, and your arms pull them to the ground. You now register that the ground is metal grating. Contact has been made. Adversaries down. Your nose has been broken for 1.6 seconds. You reach toward your face and correct the misalignment of your nose. This is painful.
You take time to assess your current situation while retrieving your adversaries’ clothing and weapons, both of which you seem to be lacking. You are crouched on a catwalk inside some sort of warehouse. There are no windows. The walls are metallic. The temperature is approximately ten below zero centigrade. Your extremities are lacking any damage due to the cold. You haven’t been here long. Odd. You cannot recollect anything prior to the fist 45 seconds ago. You are fully clothed. It is time to move. But where do you move?
Up seems like a probable choice. Heat rises. You do not wish to expose yourself to unnecessary cold, and these clothes fit loosely. The men were rather large. You begin to wish that you had kept one alive to question regarding your current predicament, but the past is itself, and you cannot undo it. You head up the nearby stairwell, not knowing what you hope to find at the top.
You make it up several levels without further contact. Upon the tenth level, you encounter a hatch. It’s fully dogged, and you begin to wonder whether this is actually a warehouse. Suspicions rising, you open the scuttle in the center of the hatch slowly. You begin to hear footsteps and voices. You cock the smaller of your weapons, slinging the other over your shoulder. There will be no time for mistakes. You rise from the scuttle to find yourself in a narrow passageway. You already have your weapon trained on one of the approaching men. There are two. The chances of them being armed seem slim from their panicked reactions, but you don’t risk an underestimation. Keeping them beyond arm’s length, you speak. “What is this place, who are you, and where are we?” Your voice comes out ragged. You haven’t spoken in quite some time. The men seem even more shocked now. The man without a gun pointed at him speaks.
“This is The Leviathan. It’s a top secret research facility. I’m Nicholson, and this is Clayton. We’re scientists. I can’t tell you where we are because I don’t know. I do know, however, that that hatch is supposed to stay closed.”
This man is being oddly open for being held at gunpoint. His heartrate hasn’t changed since he saw the gun, which means he’s either experienced with this type of situation or he’s telling the truth. You try speaking again. “Why is it supposed to stay closed?” Perhaps this will yield more answers.
Nicholson just stares at the open scuttle from which you just came. The man Nicholson identified as Clayton speaks up this time. “There’s supposedly some sort of killing machine down there. Some new weapon.” Nicholson looks away from the scuttle, which you begin closing. You may have just been down there, but you don’t want to take your chances. You’re careful to keep the weapon trained steadily at Clayton. Nicholson speaks again.
“You know we aren’t supposed to talk about what’s down there, Clayton! And that’s just a rumor. Nobody up here actually knows what’s down there. What’s down there?” The question is directed at you.
“I don’t know what’s down there,
either. It’s too dark. I just know that it’s really cold, and that people down there tried to kill me.” Well, there are multiple lies hidden there, of course. You were down there. You know that the temperature is about ten below zero centigrade and that the room is a large cargo hold or hangar of some sort about fifteen levels deep. You also don’t know for certain that the people who attacked you originally intended to kill you. Interesting. You hadn’t intended to lie, but there it was.
“Do you know me?” Maybe that’s why they’re being so compliant. You don’t hear footsteps yet, but you’re sure you don’t have much time.
Clayton speaks. “No, we don’t. But I don’t want to die, and neither does he. Please let us go.” Go? You pause to contemplate your own stupidity. Where are they going to go? As soon as you let them go, they’ll tell someone that you’re here. In fact, someone may already know that you’re here. Claytons eyes move away from the gun and toward Nicholson. They’re both clearly afraid. People in fear are stupid people. They get brave too quickly. You can see that running through their minds already. The golden blur of neural pathways firing is all too prevalent in their amygdalae. They’re planning an escape already. You can’t take that chance. While the two men are looking at each other, you quickly open the scuttle, grab Clayton and Nicholson, and pull them into the hold. On the way down, you close the scuttle. The whole process takes approximately 4.8 seconds.
You quickly unsling the larger gun from your shoulder and train it at Nicholson. Your smaller weapon is still trained at Clayton. You’re kneeling on the men’s chests now. It’s a much more controllable scenario, only now it’s cold again. It was so warm in the passageway, which had been twenty degrees centigrade. The men are gasping and gaping at the weapons only inches from their faces. At this distance, you don’t actually need the guns, but you don’t think they realize that. Appearances can be deceiving. The golden blur has dimmed away. Good. They’ve given up on escape.
“Now, perhaps you’d be so kind as to tell me what you’re researching here.” Your words are coming more readily now, but your voice still sounds foreign to you. You haven’t recovered yet. That’s an interesting thought. Recovered from what? The answer is hidden from you.
Clayton seems to enjoy speaking more than Nicholson. “Well, I don’t know about everyone else here, but Nicholson and I have been researching the psychological effect of having guns pointed at us. Obviously, we can’t tell you. It’s top secret.” This man is remarkable. Even under threat of death, he maintains a sense of humor. Or, perhaps, that sense of humor is a result of the danger. Either way, he’s funny. You suppress a smile. Nicholson looks at Clayton like he’s ready to kill the man himself.
“We’ve been working on oxygen production for long term space flights. We’ve managed a great deal in the four years we’ve been here. But we really don’t know what everyone else has been researching. We only know that all our research is both sponsored and outlawed by the UN.” That doesn’t make any sense. Why would this “UN” outlaw research and then sponsor it? Or did they sponsor it then outlaw it?
“I need somewhere safe to stay. Are your quarters private?” The scientists look at each other, and their brains light up like supernovae. Odd. They were afraid only moments ago.
They speak together. “Yes. We’ll take you there.” Wonderful, it seems some progress is being made. The three of you return up the scuttle, and you follow them down the passageway, regularly hiding in supply closets and laboratories. This facility is massive.
At last, you approach an area that says “Quarters”. There are several doors ajar here, but the lights in the passageway are a dim red to allow for sleep at all hours. A sign next to one of the doors says, “Nicholson, H. and Clayton, W.” The three of you enter the room. Inside, there are two twin-sized sleeping racks, two armoires, a closet, and a head. You aren’t entirely impressed, but it’s no pittance of a living, either. You tie the men to one of the beds to prevent them from escaping or trying to kill you while you sleep. You also lock the door for good measure. You use the head to take a shower and utilize the toilet. Afterward, you fold the stolen clothing, set the weapons beside your rack, and tuck yourself away to sleep.
You awaken to the sound of Nicholson and Clayton trying to wriggle free of your bonds. Indeed, they would have done so by now if you hadn’t thought to tie their necks to one another so tightly that they had difficulty breathing if they tried to move or call for help. You smile at your own brilliance. Of course, they also can’t swallow like that due to the immovability of their throats, so they’re also covered with drool, which you find disgusting. You sit up over the edge of the bed and stretch. Now to deal with these two. You don’t think Clayton will be much of a problem, but Nicholson will invariably become trouble quickly. Gagging them both, you cut the cords holding their necks together and spin Nicholson’s head around 180 degrees. A satisfyingly loud crack emanates from his spine, and he goes limp. A stifled scream comes from Clayton’s weakened throat. Looking at you, his eyes beg for mercy. You simply pat his shoulder gently. It’s not his
day to die today.
You sort through Nicholson’s belongings and find a clean pair of underwear and socks in his drawer. You then proceed to put on an assortment of less conspicuous clothing than the gaudy clothes of yesterday’s attacker. You find a pale brown turtleneck sweater and a pair of dark blue jeans. Luckily, Nicholson was a fairly small and thin man. These clothes fit you much better than your previous had.
You put on a few extra pairs of socks to make your boots fit better and a stocking cap to hide the fact that your hair is longer than the typical cropped cut in this facility. You then untie Clayton and warn him not to speak loudly lest he suffer Nicholson’s fate. He nods in agreement, and you ungag him.
In a panicked whisper, Clayton worked through his tears a few quiet words. “Why’d you kill him?! He didn’t do anything to you!” Odd. For some reason, this actually bothers you. You are compelled to answer Clayton’s question.
“I did what I had to do. Nicholson would have incited trouble, and I don’t need any undue attention.” This is true enough, but you don’t want to admit that you would just as soon have killed Clayton if you hadn’t been impressed by him so much.
Clayton buys it, but he clearly isn’t pleased. “Well, you’re going to get plenty of ‘undue attention’ anyway if you don’t hide those.” He nods toward you and looks at your chest for a very brief moment before his eyes dart away.
“Hide what?” You don’t understand. You haven’t picked up your guns yet, and you had planned to keep them under a leather topcoat. You look down. Are there bloodstains? No, there isn’t anything on your chest. You’re even more confused than before you thought about it.
“Well, I’m pretty sure you’re the only woman in the whole facility. Your, uh, breasts are… are rather obvious. And trust me when I say that anyone would notice those, even if they hadn’t been unable to see a woman in years.” You hadn’t thought about that. What’s the difference, anyway? Nonetheless, there’s nothing you can do to hide those without constricting your chest, which may affect reflexes and free motion. You pick up the guns, sling the larger one low, and place the smaller one into your boot. You tuck your knife into your sleeve and put your excess cords around your waist. After you’ve put on the topcoat, you look to Clayton.
“Is this any less conspicuous?” You give him a look that implores absolute honesty. He shrugs noncommittally and says it will have to do. “Good. Now, how do I get out of this facility?”
Clayton furrows his brow. “You don’t. This place isn’t exactly a part of the daily cityscape. I still don’t get how you wound up way out here.” Clayton looks at you questioningly, expecting you to explain just how you did wind up in the facility.
“Well, I don’t remember how I got here. I can only remember the past 6 hours, 4 minutes. I just know that this place is mobile. I can feel it.” This apparently comes as no surprise to Clayton. He shrugs.
“Ok, then. Should we go up, then? I haven’t been to the main deck in a few weeks, myself. I could use a little sunlight.” Clayton seems to be forgetting that he’s a hostage. That’s just as well. A happy hostage is a compliant one.
“Yes, I think I’d like that, as well. Maybe I can figure out where we are.” Clayton gives you a look that says he doubts it, but you show no sign of wavering. You place Nicholson’s body in a sleeping position facing away from the door and step away. “Let’s go.”
Clayton leads you into the passageway and toward a ladderwell. You follow him up the ladder three decks until you approach a hatch. Clayton opens it, and the ladderwell is flooded with light and warmth. You catch a familiar scent, though you cannot place it. There is a saltiness to it, but it is brisk and pleasing. The two of you step out, and you cannot contain a gasp. You’re on the weatherdeck of a large ship in the middle of the ocean. From the looks of it, you’re near one of the poles. That explains the cold and the winterwear, but what –
A loud burst of sound, a thudding sensation, and you find yourself short of breath. You’ve been shot. You look to Clayton. He’s holding a shotgun. He must have picked it up from one of the bodies on the deck. Why are there so many bodies? Clayton begins to pull the trigger again, tears coursing down his face. You won’t allow it. Your foot reaches the barrel before the hammer falls. The shotgun blasts shot into the air. By the time Clayton realizes you aren’t dead yet, your larger gun, a modified battle rifle, has proven to his face that he is. He drops. You swing the gun round. Just as you suspected, someone has come up to inspect the situation. He soon falls to the deck as well. You run as best you can to the superstructure. Your chest is in great pain, but you had been careful to conceal from Clayton the plates you had placed in the topcoat, which you now shed.
You head down the main ladderwell, exterminating any opposition you find along the way. You get to Deck Four and find the nearest hatch to the cargo hold. You hurry through the escape scuttle and run to the ladderwell you originally came up. When you reach it, you bolt down the ladder until you get to the place where your nose was broken six hours and forty-two minutes ago. You look about searchingly. There! On the deck of the hold below you, a small electronic device is laying innocently. You know better now. You leap down the remaining distance and pick it up. You run to the door nearest you. It’s ajar. You go through it and find the room where your clothes had been stripped away in search of the explosives you had already planted. In the hands of one of the dead men, you find your bag. You take it and run up to the weatherdeck as fast as you can, dispensing of all witnesses.
Your legs lead you to the side of the ship. Looking down, you can see the line to which your boat is tied from over a mile away. You climb over the rail, cross your arms over your chest, and jump feet first to the cold water far beneath you. The cold envelops you instantly, but you remain calm and keep your breath as you rise to the surface. You follow the line to your boat and pray that the device is as waterproof as you had been told as you cut the line to the ship. You squeeze the spring-loaded switch on the electronic device, and the facility which had been performing illegal experiments on particle beam weapons and privatized graviton propulsion for the past four years collapses upon itself as a small, controlled black hole forms inside it for twelve seconds before you release the switch.
You ensure that the black hole has died before putting away the device. You take your keys and open the cabin of your boat. Stepping inside, you grab your comlink. As you remove your stocking cap, you depress the side switch and speak into the com. “TAS Dragon King, this is Operative #33920-138-394-47. Mission accomplished. I could sure use a ride home. And a medic…”
A familiar voice emanates from the com. “Copy that, Terira. We’ll send your husband down with a Dragon 73C. You’ll be home in no time. A medic will be standing by on your arrival. Good job.”