Akira wriggled, blind. No visual input. Nothing but blackness. Not right. Not right. Switching to auditory. Hearing’s fine. Listen for Paul, Lasseter, listen for that useless Billy-Bob. Where are they? Where was I? Was there an I? No time for philosophical questions. Focus on now.
She heard hushed, choked sounds of laughter accompanied by deep guttural grunts and smirks. Men. Close by. More than one. A group on men. What’s that called, a group of men? A gaggle? A pack? Or, like crows, a murder? She heard sexual references, sexual jokes, more laughter, like something was funny. Really funny. Then she realized she’d be stripped of her clothing. They were laughing at her. Olfactory sensations activated. She smelled sweat, testosterone, the sweet, thick, burnt aroma of cigars.
Bass. Bass’s men.
Defenses activated. First line—Assess threat level, obtain data.
Her body was wet. Cold. She calculated a temperature of 40 degrees and dropping. Low enough to freeze a human body. Data, good data. They were testing her limits, testing her tolerance. Trying to find out what they were up against.
They had no idea.
She was upright, but not quite standing. Her arms were above her head. She tried to bring them down, but there was something around her wrists. Something metal. Something equally cold. Bringing her arms down would require more energy than she was willing to show them. Keep them ignorant— hang there until data had been gathered. How many men? How many exits? What type of weapons? What is their objective? What animal played this as their first line of defense? Opossums. Play ‘possum. She’d learned from nature. She would be patient. She was in no pain—pain was not built in. Only a defensive algorithm was built in—one that was becoming difficult to control—an algorithm humans would call fury. Her footwear had been removed. Her toes scraped the ground. She identified the ground as concrete. She flexed slowly, tugged a bit harder to test resistance. Her lips curled in an almost imperceptible smile. Sight began to return. Opening her eyes, she saw shadows and blurs, but it was enough to ascertain threat levels.
She shook her head, opened her eyes fully and a man appeared from the ether. He was just a man—an everyman. A man that would fit into any crowd. Middle age. But with wild red hair.
No. Inappropriate response. He came into a clearer view. Turner. Bass’s Secretary of Defense.
Threat level elevated.
He put something down. Something close to Akira’s feat. A bucket. A bucket with water. He reached to his side, barely noticing her stare. A table to his right. A metal table. With tools. Medieval tools designed for dismembering and torturing. And a machine. A machine with whirring blades and lasers and lights making spinning and whizzing noises.
Ah, my friend—the old and the new.
He picked up a tool. A blade used for cutting and dissecting. A blade that would be painful. He held it in his left hand, in front of her face, grabbed her by the waist and pulled her closer towards his body—hugging her in what could only interpreted as a sexual embrace.
Threat level ascertained.
“Now, whoever or whatever you are,” he said, “let’s have some fun.”
More to come.
Like I said, I’m attempting shorter and more frequent posts to keep this story moving. Thank you for all your comments, suggestions and encouragement. –George F.