Dystopia Chapter 32

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 31 by Krasniy Zakat (Saturday, September 02, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 29 by Krasnaya Zarya (Wednesday, September 06, 2006)

(posted Monday, September 04, 2006)

Alex scratched at the strap around his jaw, the rough leather strip felt like it was just seconds from choking him. It was hardly the least comfortable part of the outfit he was wearing – the thick helmet attached to the strap was too heavy, the kevlar vest too restricting, and the boots cumbersome. But he hardly got to choose what the Soviet Army wore on duty, especially in this other world, where small personal force fields seem to have been added to the small set of utilities on their belts.

He had been surprised when he'd found it on the guards outside the elevator, wondering why they hadn't activated it. A quick test of his energy blasts on the small forcefields seem to have the answer: of the two settings, the weaker one wasn't strong enough to stop him and the stronger one would have prevented them from shooting back, as well. Alex knew of people in his world who had devices like this – Crey Protectors, for once – and it seemed the technology was the same. Another similarity between the worlds. They weren't so different after all, even without America's contributions for the last twenty years. Convergent evolution, Alex mused, if you could apply Darwin's theories to scientific development. It would make Richard Dawkins proud.

After checking the elevator for, and destroying, a security camera, he had grabbed the nearest guard and pulled him in. It had taken a bit of time to get off enough of the gear so that he could suitably disguised, and luckily nobody had called the elevator during that period. Ditching the unconscious guard out into the hallway, he inserted the keycard into the panel and punched the button for the ground level.

The elevator itself was not the cablecar system he had grown accustomed to, but a much more utilitarian structure. The platform had no walls or ceiling, just a railing and a small podium to one side with the controls. The shaft was well-lit by bulbs along the walls and ceiling, and seemed to be angled at a sharp 45 degrees. As the massive platform rose – it truly did seem to be built for hauling large objects and even vehicles – he could see the large metal chains of the conveyor belt shake as the gears propelled the system upwards.

He stood frozen, secretly nervous, as he reached the first sublevel, but released his breath when the elevator passed it without stopping. There was a camera at that doorway, just like the one he had previously destroyed; he left the camera unharmed, letting it see the “harmless soldier” riding to the first floor.

The great doors of the first floor did not open when the platform arrived, much to his surprise, but after inserting the keycard once more and pushing the “Open Doors” button, it obliged his request.

Unlike the floors below, this one was brightly lit with long fluorescent panels where the smooth grey metal walls met the expansive ceiling. Whereas the floor he was detained on was empty, here any number of people could be seen wandering the halls on whatever their business was at the time – people dressed in uniforms of varying degrees, suits and even a few labcoats. What appeared to be the main corridor stretched off into the distance, with several branches and intersections along the way.

Trying his best to seem nonchalant, like he belonged there, Alex strode through the entrance and into the hallway. As was usually the case, nobody stopped to ask him what he was doing as he passed them. People were generally too busy in their own work to be bothered checking on other peoples' work, especially in the military, where efficiency was paramount.

That was all for the better, for Alex doubted that his disguise would hold up to any kind of true scrutiny. He was too skinny, too lanky, too nervous. He lacked the firm, rigid stance of a trained soldier, and was probably doing something incorrect on some obscure level, like holding his gun improperly. Besides, none of the other soldiers had to tuck a bright red ponytail up into his helmet.

As much as he tried to keep the stoic soldier facade going, he could not help but let his eyes wander around the hall, following the other occupants as they went about their business. While many of the people were obviously military, there were several scientists and clerical workers. The latter did not interest him in the least.

Surrounding one intersection were four identical corner laboratories with massive windows on both walls. Various experiments were being conducted, chemical in nature, though Alex was able to quickly ascertain that these were actually the exact same series of experiments, repeated four times. Each room had their own set of lab animals, locked away in cages, and in one of the rooms, a researcher was injecting his latest concoction into a large rat. Alex had long since moved on before there was any visible reaction, but a series of loud hisses and screeches coming from the room gave him chills.

A couple minutes later, there was a bustle behind him, probably commotion as a result of the experiment's failure – or success? - and he continued down the hallway at what he hoped was a nonchalant pace. The sound of shattering glass and some loud cursing nearly made him look back, but he refused to let his concern over his fellow scientists gain control. The voices quickly died away with the sound of a door being closed, but he did not pay that much heed. He had already crossed the majority of the hallway, and the massive steel doors ahead certainly marked the exit.

“I said: Where are you going, Comrade?”

Alex stopped. Thinking back to the last few seconds he was able to recall the initial query, which he had previously dismissed as background noise. He turned around slowly, his fingers ready to press the button on the personal force field at a moments' notice. Before him stood one of the clerical workers, something of a business man in attire. Alex, immensely relieved at his fortune, responded tersely: “Top side.” He narrowed his eyes, trying to pretend to be the gruff annoyed military man that fit several of his companions back in Paragon. “Why do you ask?”

“Did you not hear the commotion?” the man replied irately, glaring at him. “Think you're so high and mighty above us civilians, can't stop to even see what is wrong?”

Alex looked past the man's shoulder to see what he had missed. The door that had been slammed shut so hastily was thrust open once more, several researchers pouring out of the room and flowing away from him down the hallway. He could make out whispered cries of “Where did it go?” and “Did you see how fast it was?” Looks like he missed something big.

“Not my job,” Alex stated authoritatively. “Farewell, Comrade.” He turned around, ignoring the babbling protests of the worker and continued down to the doorway.

There were two guards at the inside of the door, obviously to prevent the workers and scientists from deciding to sneak away and sell their secrets, and they stared past him down the hallway. Only when he reached the door did one of them look at him, merely a small flicker of the eyes to him and then to the control panel on the wall. The slot for the keycard was obviously the only way to get past these troops; they did not need to know who went past or why, only that the permission was already granted. Alex approached the panel tentatively, sliding his stolen card through the slot and waiting for the confirmation message.

Hoping for the confirmation message.

It came quickly, the green light flashing as the steel doors slid open. The first steel doors, at least, as they were strong blast doors, with two layers that opened one after the other. On the other side was a long sloped hallway, just a ramp leading up to another set of blast doors and accompanying guards. Unlike the two stationed here, these ones were patrolling up and down the hallway, positioned to deal with people coming either direction. The slope of the ramp was steep, nearly thirty degrees, and three sets of stairs carved into the concrete gave the necessary footing for traversal – one on each side and one straight through the middle.

The doors closed shut behind him, leaving him in the antechamber with the two guards - the only obstacles left to the outdoors.

“Aleksander Mikhailovich, that is far enough.”

He froze in his tracks. The voice, which came from some hidden loud speaker, was the voice of the man he had spoken with in the cell, who claimed this was all diplomatic and friendly. That he used the familial patronym instead of his last name was interesting; was he trying to sweet-talk him?

“It has been an interesting diversion, watching this attempt at escape,” the voice continued, “and while I am impressed at your unnatural abilities, I regret to inform you that you will not leave this room outside of my custody.”

The two guards, having gotten the hint, raised their rifles and aimed them at Alex's chest.

“Sounds familiar,” Alex muttered, the green haze of the forcefield shimmering around him. He clenched his hands into fists, encased in growing balls of energy, and charged the soldiers.

They fired on him immediately, but the barrage of laser blasts were deflected and absorbed by the shield, doing nothing to stop him from reaching the nearest of the two, and smashing his chest with his fist. The coating of energy flared upon impact, the victim of the punch suddenly flung across the room, crashing into the blast doors beyond. The other soldier quickly activated his own forcefield, realizing the danger that he was in, and the uselessness of his own weapons.

Unlike the first quick blow, where the high density of Alex's energetic fist was able to penetrate through his own personal forcefield and hit his target, the second one had to pass through two such fields; the result of Alex's attempt: he and his enemy bounced back and away from each other, repelled to conserve energy and momentum. This did not daunt Alex in the least, for he quickly tried again, this time with his fists closed together; the haymaker succeeded in passing through both fields, knocking his opponent to the ground.

Seeing both guards incapacitated, Alex dashed for the control panel, withdrawing his keycard from his pocket and sliding it through the slot. As expected, the message came up as “Door Locked”.

“You are trapped. Reason dictates that you should surrender, scientist. You have no other choice.”

“I think I see a flawed assumption in your analysis of the situation.” The energy around his fists continued to glow brightly, pulsing as they slowly grew.

“Oh?”

“You believe I cannot destroy these blast doors.” Alex smirked, bringing his palms together, the balls of energy surrounding his arms merging together.

“And you have made a faulty assumption, yourself: you assume that those are the only doors.”

A loud grinding sound filled the room as panels on the two walls slid open, revealing several waiting armed men. They poured into the room, forming a half-circle around him, pinning him to the blast doors. The air hummed with the sound of a dozen forcefield generators.

“Forcefields do not stop me.” The ball in Alex's hands continued to grow, now nearly the size of his torso.

“Nor me.”

A burst of static came from the headset of one of the soldiers, who then pressed his thumb on a small spherical device he'd been holding. Small bands of bright metal around the otherwise obsidian sphere lit up with bright white light, then immediately dimmed. The forcefields surrounding the soldiers and Alex flickered out simultaneously.

“Dissipate your weapon and put your hands over your head.”

Alex sighed, drawing the energy back into his chest. He winced as he did so; the procedure always caused an immense uncomfortable pressure in his body – especially in his head. He raised his hands above his head, hands spread in surrender. He wouldn't need them for what he was about to do.

He exploded.

All the energy he had stored was released in one massive wave of death and destruction, filling the entire room and flinging back his captors into the far wall. The smell of burnt plastic and flesh was overwhelming; he did not bother to look back at them. Instead, he stared at the blast door in front of him, which had been deformed by the explosion, the center of it broken open and bent outwards, letting a bright light from outdoors shine into the room.

He did not move, sheer exhaustion momentarily getting the better of him.

Another grinding sound came, but this time it was that of the blast doors opening. He raised a hand to his eyes, blinded by the intense light, and could make out a series of people waiting for him. More troops... Unable to form another energy ball so soon after exhausting his resources; he brought his hand to the still unused laser rifle.

“Do not do anything rash, Aleksander Mikhailovich,” one of the figures spoke. The light vanished, the two large spotlights that had been directed at him turning away to give him a view of his enemies. The agent from his first interrogation stood paramount in the center, flanked on either side by several soldiers.

Carried between two of the soldiers, unconscious and looking like she had been through hell, was Sofia.

“Or your wife dies.”

Alex fell to his knees.