Dystopia Chapter 12

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 7 by Krasnaya Zarya (Saturday, June 24, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 8 by Krasnaya Zarya (Wednesday, June 28, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, June 27, 2006)

Cold.

Mind-numbing cold.

A variety of signals raced through Alexander Rabinovich's nervous system, the foremost one being a memo from his skin to put some heavier clothes on against the chill, or to at least turn up the thermostat. His brain, still laden with the deep inertia of unconsciousness, entertained these impulses, and nearly asked Sofia why she had stolen all the blankets; the memories came flooding back, and he sat up sharply.

And immediately regretted it.

A few moments later, he fell back down on the hard slab of metal that had been his bed, wiping the bile from his lips and swallowing back the painful burning sensation. Whatever drugs had been used to keep him under had nasty side effects, and it felt like his brain was resting somewhere in his stomach. Medicines and other such compounds always had strange effects with his anatomy, and always for the worst. For once, he wished that he would discover that a pain reliever that granted him the ability to transmute lead into gold, instead of finding that his allergy medicine was making his white blood cells try and eat through the walls of his arteries.

He slowly opened his eyes, wincing as the light from the fluorescent bulbs in the high ceiling seemed only to consent to pass through his pupils so that it could try and sear strange purple shapes into the back of his head. It appeared that not only was heavy nausea a side effect, but also a severe migraine with intense sensitivity to light.

But there were more urgent matters to attend to than his various discomforts, not the least of which was learning where in the world he was.

It was some kind of holding cell, that much was obvious from the lack of windows, sparse accommodations, and the thick metal door with slide-away viewing port. Besides the rigid bunk he was currently occupying, the only other piece of furniture - the use of the word was a real stretch – was a large metal bucket in one corner. He mentally stored its exact distance and location, in case the nausea peaked once more.

The construction of the cell was fairly irregular. He'd found himself confined in various prisons throughout his career, usually a result of a teleport being redirected, and had long since familiarized himself with the exotic materials used to create jails that could contain a person like himself. Instead of glossy alloys and forcefields, the walls were the dull gray of concrete, matching the floor and the ceiling. He was not comforted by this, though: steel-reinforced concrete could absorb a nuclear blast.

His mind, though still drowning in chemicals, was quickly doing the mathematics of his escape. The metal door was set a good 30 centimeters into the wall, so he could assume that the walls were all at least that thick. If so, his only chance of breaking out would be through the door. That would take a few more hours of rest; the medicines were messing with his energy reserves, and he wasn't sure he could even produce a large enough beam to knock a rat over.

And time was something he wasn't sure he had. He had no idea how long he was out, but it wouldn't be long before Sofia would try to track him down; he really didn't want to worry her. He'd made a silly mistake, let down his guard, and had been captured – probably to steal his inventions, he figured. He could escape on his own, return home with nary a scratch, only to have her kill him for the worry.

Such was a married life, he mused, a small smile creeping at the sides of his mouth.

His inner monologue was interrupted by sharp sounds coming from beyond the steel door. Rhythmic and light, he had a distinct impression of boots ringing on a solid floor. The cadence was strange though, at times fast and others slow, and far more often than normal. Images of strange multi-legged robots flooded his imagination until Occam's Razor cut them apart and he realized that there were three separate people approaching.

Three men: one to interrogate and two to guard. If he was lucky, that one would be the betrayer, but he had already begun to surmise that he had been handed off to somebody else… Somebody higher up. The concrete construction and lack of fancy electrical devices to restrain and observe him implied that he was no longer in the laboratory, and had been moved to some kind of prison or bunker. That would mean that his interrogator would be a professional, somebody willing to use drugs and torture.

Alex waited quietly as the footsteps reached the door. Every neuron in his brain wanted him to gather all his energy and make his escape, but every cell in his body refused. It would take time to recover enough to break out. But he had to play it safe, be careful; his emergency teleportation tag couldn’t get a signal from here at all.

One stray bullet, and he’d never see Sofia again. Given the kind of welcome he could expect at home, this might actually be a boon. But Sofia hadn’t killed him yet, even when his automated vacuum cleaner started hunting the cat, so there was a good chance of just losing a limb. Besides, at home the emergency teleport system would save his life.

Which brought him back to his current predicament.

He forced himself to sit up straight, locking his jaw and staring at the door as it opened. He wanted to show a face of a man unfazed by the turn of events, the stubborn Jew who knew he would have the upper hand at the end. His interrogator would stare into his eyes, and know what he was up against. Stereotypes were a boon, occasionally, and he would certainly use this one to his benefit.

Alex’s poker face melted away as the men entered the room; he couldn’t believe his eyes.

More accurately, he couldn’t believe the uniforms the soldiers in front of him wore.