|The Glass Walls of an Infinite Prison
Author: Spiral Architect PM
A spark to light the fire of memory, and the rain to wash it all away again. Sci-Fi/Horror/Supernatural.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Horror - Chapters: 7 - Words: 15,928 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 10-02-12 - Published: 08-20-12 - id: 3052048
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
John stumbled into Steve's room like a man on death row. His eyes were bloodshot and his whole body shook. He collapsed into a chair and just sat there, frozen.
He didn't wait for Steve to ask what was wrong. "Something went wrong, Steve."
"Dude, you look like hell. How did you get hung over so fast?"
John didn't even bother to glare, and it was then that Steve got worried.
"What the hell happened?" Steve asked, revising his tone to a less comical one.
"I didn't leave fast enough. I thought that Ben was just going to kill him quickly and get him in the recovery phase nice and fast. I'd never...I'd never seen him do it before, so I thought it would be interesting to watch."
"It started off amicably enough, but then...then, oh my God, what the hell did he do to him..."
"John. Pull yourself together for a second and tell me what happened."
John never bothered to acknowledge it, but this was the most serious Steve had been since he'd met him.
"He...damn...he started the process off okay, but then he got this horrified look on his face, and...and I've never seen Ben get scared before, but he looked like he'd just watch a murderer kill his family, and he started shouting 'Why won't you die!?' while mashing all the buttons like...like I don't know what the fuck does that. But I've never seen him so scared before."
"John, people get scared all the time. Hell, we've seen Matt get killed so many times it's pretty much old hat by now. What was the problem?"
"I don't know what Ben was afraid of."
They both fell silent.
Ben knocked on the thick wooden door, each hit a hollow thud buried in the wood. Eventually, a voice called out, "Come in."
Ben shoved the door open and paused just long enough to hear it slam shut out of its own weight. Only then did he begin. His hand quivered from sheer rage; but his voice came out as steady as he could manage.
"You set me up."
Alexi raised an eyebrow. "Did I now."
"You knew the heart attack function was still in beta. Why did you make me use it?"
"To be honest, I thought they'd have it fixed by now," Alexi said absently, straightening some papers on his desk and casting his glance downwards, as if that would make Ben leave him alone.
"You would know! The people who work on that report to you! Again: Why did you make me use it if you knew it wasn't going to work the way it was intended?"
Alexi set down the pen he held in his right hand. "Ben, you know as well as I that I did not force you to do anything."
"Your suggestions are practically law. I've seen it happen. You 'suggest' something to someone, even if they aren't in your fucking department, and if they don't listen to you they end up in a work-related accident. Then you dump the bodies God knows where and that's the end of that."
He finally looked up. "I give good suggestions. They're missing out by not taking them."
He started to return to his work, and Ben snapped. Something in his mind-probably the part enslaved to this fucking monster-simply melted away in a flash of words.
"Look at my face, Alexi!"
Alexi looked up.
"I'm sick of your bullshit. I'm sick of being your slave for all the shit you're too lazy to do. I quit."
Alexi's face did absolutely nothing. "Really."
"I'll kill you if I have to."
For the first time in...so long he'd begun to forget, Alexi allowed himself a small smile.
"Ben, I am but a human. I am very much aware of this. However, it's irrelevant what you are-human or not. I have learned many an art through the years. Some more dangerous than others. But let me make something perfectly clear: no matter how strong you become, no matter how many specialized spirits you kill and subsequently gain power from, I will always be two steps ahead. Two steps out of reach. It doesn't matter how fast you run to try and close the gap; I will simply reach back and choke you. Do not think, for even a moment, that I would hesitate to do this. Do not think that simply because you are one possibly of a group of people that we sell to, that we would keep you alive out of fear, that we might invoke the wrath of those who would come to your defense. The sole reason that Blue Marlin still exists is because we can win a war against the supernatural, and they know it. So: if you wish to die, that can be arranged in a manner that grants us some gain out of it. Otherwise, I recommend you remain in my service. A simple suggestion, nothing more."
Ben sneered, he raged, he screamed against the words he knew he could not fight-silently. There was nothing he could do. Nothing he could say.
All he did was stand up, turn around and walk out.
As he left, he realized that he never got an answer to the question he'd intended to ask in the first place.
"He can't be human. No man can possibly be that emotionless and soulless. Alexi doesn't feel anything. Nothing. Not a damned thing."
Steve gave a one-shoulder shrug. "Well, that's true."
"It's just...he was better now, they fixed him, and now...now what? Are they trying to reverse it? Are they just testing how strong the change is?"
"The second one, I think," Steve said, too quietly for John to acknowledge.
"There's just...ah shit, I need a steady voice right now. Where's Maria?"
Steve paused. "Well...I think she got moved to a different department. Said they needed her expertise elsewhere."
"That doesn't make any sense. She's a psychology major. A psychology PhD. She doesn't have any expertise in anything else. Not enough to warrant a position change, at least."
"I've heard they need all sorts of people in the experimental biology department."
"They don't need psychologists down there. I'm going to her room to check if they've kicked her out yet."
John stood up on unsteady legs. He'd lifted a weight off his mind here, but it wasn't enough.
He wandered the halls, uncovering the route to Maria's room as he went. It took him nearly twenty minutes to find it, and once he did, the place was alive with yellow tape and the idle chatter of guards.
If John had any color left in his face, it was gone.
One of the guards was leaning against the wall, staring off at the closed door.
John tapped him on the shoulder and the guard jumped awake. "Wha-oh. Place's off limits. Find a different route."
"What the hell is going on here?"
The guard scratched his short black beard. "Frankly, I don't know. They don't tell me these things."
"Where's Maria? This is her room, right?"
"Yeah. Look, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Alright, plan B. "I've got level three clearance."
The guard sighed. "Well, it ain't enough. Gonna need four or higher to get in there. That creepy no-eyed guy-"
"-Yeah, him, he was in there. Looked through some of the stuff on her desk, God only knows how. I heard he got an experimental procedure to fix that, but I don't know. The more I see here, the faster I'm willing to believe he's just some demon or shit like that and can just see anyway. Supposedly Alexi himself stopped by a while to do the same thing, but I don't know. Guy who told me likes to spread rumors too much. Either way, Ben got here just as I got on my shift (the guard glanced at his watch) ten minutes ago, stuck around for a while, then told that guy right there (he pointed to a tall, thin wire of a man who was engaged in a heated debate with another man next to him) to do something. He took a gas can and a box in there and then he came out with both of them. I don't know what they were for. I don't know why. All I know is he went in all smooth-like and came out pretty fast."
"Where did Maria get moved to?"
"Experimental Biology. I don't know what she's going to be doing there. I don't even know what she did here."
"I worked with her." John considered going on to talk about Matt, but he held his tongue.
"Well...sucks. You'd better get going, I don't think Alexi will take too kindly to you hanging around."
John was deflated, but then again, he wasn't really sure what he should have been expecting. Blue Marlin was devilishly efficient, and if Ben had the ability to tell him an hour and some ago, then she was long gone.
He sighed. A trip in vain.
John muttered a goodbye and started back towards Steve's room once again.
"Damn. Something must've been going on down there."
John just stared at him, wondering why he'd ask such an obvious question.
Steve caught it. "Sorry. It's just...what the hell did she do wrong?"
"I don't know. She seemed to follow the rules pretty well. I don't think she did anything to explicitly piss off Alexi, but maybe...I don't know."
"Getting shipped off to E.B. is not a death sentence. She's probably fine. Don't worry about it."
"She doesn't have any reason to go to E.B!" John shouted. "It doesn't make any fucking sense!"
"John!" Steve said sharply. "Calm down. It's probably nothing. People get reassigned all the time."
"But only to posts they can actually perform," John growled, the residual anger from the outburst still infecting his voice.
"Third time. It's nothing. Calm down. She's-"
John's voice went quiet and small. "What if she found something?"
Steve froze. "Like what?"
"You remember. Five years ago. Ben told us that we were going to see weird things here?"
"You know how we never did?"
"Your point being..."
"Maria was the representative for our project, so she went to all the meetings. What if, on one of those trips, she found something she wasn't supposed to see?"
"Why would she have meetings in Experimental Biology?"
"Those meetings are in all sorts of places, depending on who leads them. But most of the time, they're in the Experimental Bio building. You know, the only one that has a fair chance of seeing anything out of the ordinary in."
"If she saw something there, and they didn't want everyone to know, why not move her to a grunt job in the place where everyone already knows?"
Steve's eyes went wide. "Damn. That could work."
"But that's not the important bit. The guard by her room told me that a man went in there with a gas can and a box, which really only means one thing."
"Yeah. She must've seen something, and then she wrote it down."
"No, she made sure to memorize it. Of course she wrote it down."
"She probably did. Maria had a good memory, I wouldn't put it past her."
"John, relax. Go to bed. Eat a cookie. Sleep on it for a while. I doubt you'll be this worried in the morning."
"You don't see it? If they were moving her, they'd move her to a relevant job, there wouldn't be guards outside of her room and they sure as hell would not be burning all of her stuff!"
John's voice quaked with a strange blend of anger and fear. One of them was prevailing; but neither of them knew which one.
"You have meetings tomorrow, right?"
Steve cast a sidelong glance at a haphazard pile of incomplete papers on his desk. "Yeah."
"Check the admission ledger. For Maria. Where were most of her meetings?"
Steve stood up. "No."
John's expression was all the 'why' he needed.
"Cool it, man. This isn't a disaster. I know why you're so worked up, but seriously. Calm the fuck down."
John shrugged. "It doesn't matter. I have meetings later that day anyway. I'll check myself."
With that, he stood up and walked out, leaving Steve standing perplexed in his wake.
A/N: This is the last chapter I'm uploading to FP. See my profile's paranoia rule about publishing for details. I hope you've enjoyed so far, and if you've reviewed up to this point (or at it), I'll send you a PM when it's all said and done so you can download it for free and (hopefully) leave a formal review on Amazon or wherever.
If anyone can convince me that my paranoia rule is unnecessary and there's no harm in posting the whole thing here even if I want to formally self-publish later, then please tell me.