Dirt crumbled from the walls of the trench as a tank rolled over it, just a few inches over my helmeted head. Working quickly I pulled a grenade of of my belt and, pausing only momentarily to remove the pin, I lobbed it up into the pipes under the tank. Suddenly, the tank stalled. Though I began running down the trench, I had seen this happened too often to think that I was going to be fine. I was only about 3 yards away when “BOOM” the grenade exploded sending a massive fireball down the path of least resistance, through the trench and straight towards me. The pain of incineration was a lot more mild than I expected, but none the less agonizing.
With a gasp I woke up in the Vid-Sim room, the neural processor was lifted away from my face.
“Hello, David,” came the synthetic voice of Sebastian, my computerized butler, “Can I get anything for you at this time?”
“The news,” I replied, rubbing my eyes “and a glass of milk.”
Getting up from the Vid-Sim table I changed out of the rubbery skinsuit designed to sense the motion of my arms and legs into a T-shirt and jeans before walking into the main parlor where I found a glass of milk and a small hollo-disk for the news. Quickly drinking the milk I scanned the news for the one article that interested me; a story of two explorers found in the desert;
Yesterday a pair of explorers were found in the Washisha desert. Though the two explorers were in too poor a condition to tell us who they were, the DNA results came back saying that they were Mr. and Mrs. Rolelsin. After several hours in the bactine tanks they were able to tell us their story.
“We were on an expedition to find new dorudium deposits when a sandstorm separated us from our group.” said Ms. Rolelsin “We were stuck out there for days without food or water.”
Thankfully the Rolelsin’s weren’t stranded in the desert for long, so they’re expected to make a full recovery.
“D*****!” I shouted, hurling the hollo-disk across the room.
“I’m afraid young master, that as of today, the one year anniversary of the last known contact with your parents, they are legally dead. It is time to open the will.” said Sebastian.
There was, of course, no actual will to open. I simply needed a court key to activate a special hollo-disk containing the last will and testament Andrew and Victoria Vulcrum.
Solemnly I had Sebastian prepare a car to take me to the governor's office where a few cursory questions to confirm that I was infact David Vulcrum before handing me the key to the will. With a heavy heart I accepted the key and left the office.
When I had returned to the manor I went to my office and locked the door. Whatever was inside this hallo-disk, I was going to be the only one to see it. I inserted the key into the disk and a small but ornate button popped out. I pressed the button and the recording started to play.
First my mother came onto the screen, “Hello David, If you’re hearing this then your father and I have been killed or lost somewhere, so on behalf of the Vulcrum family I hand over legal ownership of all of our assets to you. In the basement you will find a safe with an eleven digit password , and yes it is a bit over the top, password. Inside of it there are documents proving that you are in charge of our estates, the password is HAILPHOENIX.” then she walked out of my sight.
Then my father came on, "Hi David!" he said in his deep voice "As you know, we’re dead, so think of this as our last request; go to the restaurant at the corner of 12 West and 53 South and order the clam chowder. It was the first meal I had after my father died, so it would mean a lot to me if you went there and had it.” Then the video ended
Later that night I stood in front of the building my father had told me about. There wasn’t much to see, It was a 2 story building with mirrored window and cracked bricks. Bracing myself for whatever uncouth behavior I might find, I went inside.
The interior of the building was starkly different from its exterior. Instead of the old tables and rowdy patrons I had expected to find there was nothing except for a single air vent in the middle of the floor. Deciding that the restaurant must have closed down I turned around and prepared the leave, but the door had already shut somehow. I tried to open it, but the door must have been locked from the outside. I started banging on the door, but it must have been re-enforced because it didn’t so much as shudder under my assault. Suddenly I heard a hissing from behind me and turned around towards the origin of the sound. A vent in the floor was spilling a billowing white gas across the floor. My eyelids grew heavy and as I struggled to keep them open as I heard the door unlock. Then my eyelids closed.
When I awoke I was in a dark room room with a single bulb dangling from the ceiling. There was a steel door on the far wall and a pile of straw, which I was currently sprawled on. The walls looked as if they had been recently whitewashed and floor was tilted towards a small drain.
I unsteadily got to my feet and walked over to the door. It looked solid buy had a slit to look through. I started banging on the door, screaming “Let me go! I have contacts! The police will be looking for me!”
Suddenly the slit opened and a pair of beady eyes appeared. “Looks like this one’s awake.” came a rough voice.
“Take him to the initiation chamber,” came a nasally voice from somewhere else “the bossman will be interested in meeting him.”
The door swung open and a heavily built man reached forward to grab me. I scrambled backwards realizing too late that I probably prefered my cell to whatever was outside of it. Nonetheless I was roughly grabbed by my collar. As I was dragged out of my cell I saw the other man, the one with the nasally voice. He was dressed in a strange white and gold uniform with a with something like a T, but with a circle on top of it emblazoned on his shoulder. I only got a quick peek at the man before I was literally dragged down a corridor.
When my journey ended I was battered and bruised from being forcibly swung into walls whenever my captor made a turn. When we finally got to our destination I was tossed to the floor and sprawled on the floor before what looked like a throne. On top of the throne sat a tall young man, no more than twenty, with long golden hair. His uniform was similar to the one that I saw on another captor back at my cell. He turned towards the man who had carried me here, “I hope that you didn’t treat our guest to roughly, Carl. He is after all the key to winning our war.”
“Sorry sir,” said the man who was apparently named Carl “I didn't realize that he was so important.”
“It’s okay, just try to treat him more gently from now on.”
The man on the throne turned to me “Sorry that we have been so inhospitable, our security has to be very tight. I haven’t introduced myself, my name is Kevin.”
“My name is David.” I said, shakily getting to my feet.
“Now, you must be wondering why we decided to abduct you. The answer is very simple, your parents were members of our organization and have some key pieces of information at their, I mean, your mansion. We need you to help us retrieve that information.”
“Why should I do this for you? You kidnapped me, one of you men slammed me against several walls and now you want to enlist my aid? I don’t think so.”
“What if I told you that with that with that information we could unlock the key to eternal life?”
“Then, I would say that you're crazy.”
“Maybe now,but not when you bring us the information.”
“Once again, why are you so sure that I’m going to give you the information that you need.”
“Because I know that you want to follow the footsteps of your parents who were some of my best operatives. Do you know what they died for?”
“They died out in the wilderness on a hike.”
“That’s where they died, not why they died.”
“Hmmph,” I snorted derisively “ I suppose that you can tell me why they died.”
“As a matter of fact, yes.” said Kevin “They died trying to find enough aligium to power our experiment, and now that we have all that aligium, all we need is the information that they stored at their, sorry your, mansion. But anyway, I have an important meeting to get to, “ he turned to Carl “show our guest out.”
A few minutes, a rough sack was tossed over my head and a bumpy car ride later I was back at my mansion, wondering what had just happened to me.
To my credit I managed to get by for three days without even thinking about giving them what they wanted. Then on the fourth day my will broke. At first it came slowly, a subtle urge to see if I actually had the information, then, when it turned out that I did, it became the urge to maybe bargain with them for it, just to fatten my already obese purse. Finally on the sixth day it became an unstoppable need to know if their process would work. That’s how, a week after my kidnapping I ended up in front of the “restaurant” where it all began for me.
Almost immediately a big white van pulled up behind me, and strong arms came out to grab me, but this time I was prepared. Before the arms could complete their bearhug on me I turned around and used my taser on whoever was holding me.
When I looked I saw Carl lying on the ground, still spasming. I walked towards the driver's window and held my taser threateningly close to the metal plated side of the van. I knew of course that my taser would run out of battery long before there was enough electricity to even give the driver a small shock after all the energy had been distributed around the van, but with any luck the driver didn’t know that.
It seemed to work, the driver rolled down the window and nervously stuttered “W-what do y-you wa-want?”
“The same thing that you were sent here for, to take me back to the man in charge, just on my terms.”
This time when we got to the headquarters of “Phoenix” as the driver told me, it turned out just to be a small warehouse, not the giant complex that I had been led through, perhaps Carl had made more turns than strictly necessary. either way, it was comforting to know that Phoenix wasn’t as powerful as it had seemed last time. As I was lead towards the control room? Throne room? I went over my plan, it was going to be a tough sell and it all depended on my confidence, something I never had much of.
As I entered the room I saw rows of technicians scurrying around what looked like a giant glass jar with several bunches of wires hanging from it. Slow clapping came from behind me and as I turned I saw Kevin standing on his throne sarcastically clapping. “I just knew that you’d come back to back to you senses didn’t I Steve.” He said pointing towards one of the technicians, and then ignoring the answer “So, give me the information. Now.”
“Sure, on one condition.”
“What is this condition of yourse.”
“I get to go first.”
“And how do you know that we won’t just pump in some poisonous gas while you’re in the chamber”
“Because the police will be here in,” I checked my watch “37 minutes with questions about why you have a dead body in a oversized jar.”
“You idiot! It’ll take more than half an hour to go through the process!”
“Then you better get going.”
Barely 6 minutes later I was standing inside the jar, which I had been informed was called the “reconstruction chamber”. Thick grey gas began pouring up from the floor and within seconds my body was enveloped in an intense pain, like every cell in my body was being replaced (which they incidentally they were). Suddenly after what seemed like ages the loud sound of a door being kicked opened punctuated the hum of machinery. “Get down on the ground!” Shouted the voice of Police Chief Millar.
“You lied! You said that we had more time,” screamed someone who I suspected was Kevin.
Suddenly the door to the chamber opened and the pain stopped. “Are you okay,” asked Chief Millar.
“Yeah, I think i’m fine.”
“You traitor! You said we’d have more time.” Screamed Kevin “You lied!”
“Wh-what are you talking about? Yo-you kidnap me.”
“What are you talking about? You came here of your own will!’
Little more than a month later a new headline came up.
Kidnapping gang Phoenix captured, leader convicted
The head of the kidnapping gang, known as Phoenix, has been captured and brought to justice. Kevin Drumpf was sentenced to life in maximum security prison, most of his gang has been similarly convicted.
Reading this I accidentally slipped and dropped the hollow disk. It smashed on the floor and shards of plastic flew into my foot. Gritting my teeth I pulled out the shards and watched as pale new skin pulled over the cut.