He, Specimen 147, had entered the Summoning Chamber at some point. Doesn’t really matter when, but it was the most pleasant surprise I’d had all month. It meant that there had finally been a successful experiment. He seemed to have something of a crass mouth, but I was greatly looking forward to performing a complete physical examination once he was properly contained. Preferably without harming him, so I called out to Colonel Braug’s adjutants to prevent any unnecessary damage.
To my horror, it seemed my concerns were unwarranted.
Specimen 147 was a young man of approximately twenty years of age with straight brown hair that was fairly short, but slightly longer than it should have been, as if he were overdue for a haircut. He was several inches taller than average height, just breaking over six feet or so with long limbs. But his tall body was thin and seemed incompatible with combat of any kind. His white body was also pale in a way that suggested that he had the luxury of avoiding going outdoors for most of his life, meaning there was absolutely no reason to believe he was physically competent in any way. Yet he tore Colonel Braug’s adjutants apart in moments.
The adjutants were highly trained and experienced soldiers, hand picked by the Colonel to be his all purpose bodyguards and assistants. They were skilled warriors who had undoubtedly survived several subjugation campaigns and border skirmishes. And when they had used their Reinforcement, they quickly moved two or three times as fast as any normal person. Yet Specimen 147 had moved faster.
The fight was a blur that ended in seconds. I had not invested any magic into my eyes, so I couldn’t be certain, but it seemed Specimen 147 had used some unheard of combat style that used the legs as the primary weapon. It had been terribly effective, as the adjutants’ bodies were bent in abhorrent ways on the ground, which was apparently not enough for Specimen 147, as he struck the second adjutant while he was down. I jumped when Specimen 147 struck with the sword pommel, I could hear the blow from where I stood. Then Specimen 147 looked towards me and the Colonel. I was unsure what to do, the… the violence of it all was so shocking, but then the Colonel pulled free his battle focus and channeled his magic into a spell.
With a gasp, I dove behind the console. I did not know much military gossip, but I knew that the Colonel was a man who was known for disregarding his surroundings in a battle, having lead to a court martial before now, and I had no wish to be scalded. Hiding my body, I poked only my head around the corner to observe the imminent demise of Specimen 147, this time placing magic in my eyes to properly observe the poor man’s end in case there are any physical abnormalities in his passing. There was no guarantee a person from another world would be immolated in the same way as people from my own.
Ahhh, it’s too bad I won’t be able to examine him or his body. Perhaps I’ll get lucky and Specimen 148 will somehow survive as well? Goddess willing.
Colonel Braug’s Fire Bolt was as fast as I’d heard, releasing the sound of a sharp thud as the air was displaced by its release. Like a blur, it streaked into Specimen 147. Except it didn’t. Somehow, Specimen 147’s figure blurred, even to my own reinforced eyes, and the Fire Bolt passed through the space he should still have been occupying. When the blurred movement ended, Specimen 147 was running at his former pace again as I reflexively flinched, closing my eyes from the Fire Bolt explosion. When I opened my eyes again, Specimen 147 was standing over the Colonel, whose blood was pouring out of a death wound in his chest.
A shiver ran through my body. Then Specimen 147 looked at me directly. I could only think to run. I only got a few steps before I felt the collar of my coat as Specimen 147 grabbed me and threw me down, the impact pushing the air from my lungs. Frantically, I turned to look at the man I had just failed to run from.
He stood looming over me, as still as a stone sentinel. His head and face were a gentle oval with no jagged features and possessing gentle curves. But his face was completely expressionless, but for a strained jaw and a tightness around the eyes. His features were cold and detached. Somehow, that scared me far more than if Specimen 147 was shouting and ranting. At some point, I realized I was trying to crawl away from Specimen 147, shuffling backwards on my backside, unwilling to turn my back on him again. But I could open no distance from him.
“Please,” I begged, my voice quavering, “Please, don’t hurt me.”
His features remained unchanged in the face of my plea.
The words, “I don’t want to die,” slipped out of my mouth before I was even aware of them. But Specimen 147 continued advancing without change. Then, my hand slipped on something, and I fell backwards upon it. It was Specimen 148, a blonde woman even younger than 147, garbed in a thick sweater and trousers of some blue material. Oh, no, I took my eyes off 147!
I swiftly raised my gaze back to Specimen 147, afraid that he’d sprung upon me in my moment of inattention, but he was still looming over me. His eyes were no longer locked upon me either, as they had flicked over to Specimen 148 right under me. Before I could think of a direction to flee towards, 147’s eyes returned to me and he spoke. His words were smoothly uttered in a low voice, though each one had an emphasis on it as though a period formed after every syllable.
“Take Those Off Her.”
Somewhere in the back of my mind I remarked upon how the language matrix in the Circle was a success as the rest of me panicked, afraid of failing Specimen 147’s demand. With dread in my heart, I could force out the word, “K – key.”
Specimen 147 unclenched his jaw to speak again, but the tension did not leave it, as he ordered, “Get It.”
I bobbed a hasty nod as I scurried like an animal over to Colonel Braug’s body that had fallen on it’s side, and searched his belt. His blood soaked my hands, and it seemed I was shaking convulsively as my fingers felt around, increasing the time the task was taking me. Specimen 147 didn’t say a word of impatience, I could only feel his cold gaze upon my back, unnerving me more and more. Upon finding the collar’s key, I fairly ran back to Specimen 148 on the floor, hurriedly unlocking the cuffs and collar before standing up to present them to Specimen 147 as though they were a trophy or a peace offering, some semblance of hope forming as I did so.
My hope was dashed as Specimen 147 said, still in his punctuated words, “Put It On.” But I just took them off, and he want’s me to put them back on 148?
Oh, Goddess, no. Please.
“Do It,” he stated, as though sensing my hesitance.
I had never attached one of these things before, but I had no other choice but to figure it out. Looping the metal banded leather collar around my neck, I closed and tightened the material until there was a click, signalling it’s closing. The chain that hung from the collar extended downward, where two cuffs hung from it, swaying like a pendulum. Taking hold of the leather and metal cuffs, I slowly closed them around my own wrists as though I were walking to the gallows. As the clasps closed, sealing them upon my wrists, I held them up to Specimen 147 to show my compliance.
Somehow, it’s only now that I could feel tears running down my face.
Specimen 147 took the key from my grasp and asked me a question, his voice somewhat relaxed, but still cold.
“What’s your name?”
Oh no no no no, please no no no.
“Your name,” he demanded this time.
Somehow, I’m shaking my head back and forth in denial. I’m slowly stepping back from him. When did I start?
His hand flashes out like a striking viper, closing around my throat just tight enough to prevent any escape, but it still hurt, even without any force in his grip. Instinctively, I knew. He could end me with a single constriction.
“Tell Me Your Name,” he demanded, punctuating his words again. His light brown eyes with green flecks were staring into my own, his willpower beating itself into me. Then his eyes exploded in color. The brown burst into a deep crimson red, the green flickered like the burning orange embers of a fire. If felt like his gaze alone was searing into my soul, and I released a scream that could have actually been a sob at the sight.
“Mercedes Vhon! I’m Mercedes Vhon!”
The curse activated. The chain dissolved into grey smoke and streaked into my mouth and nostrils. I choked on the acridness as the smoke pushed deeper into my body, and I could swear I could taste it enter my brain. I convulsed wordlessly once, and then my knees gave out. My now chainless hands caught me before I struck against the stone floor, but I was bound by something far worse than rattling metal.
I had just been enslaved to Specimen 147.
The heck just happened?
Dissolving metal? And what’s up with the drama? I just wanted to know what to call the woman, since it would be really awkward to be calling her “scientist” from now on. I only wanted a hostage that could answer my questions and get me out of this place, and now Mercedes was weeping on the ground.
I couldn’t even stay mad any more, it was just too weird.
With a deep sigh, all my aggression and pent up fear were expelled from my body as a heavy fatigue fell on top of me. It felt like I’d been worn emotionally raw, and a crying woman wasn’t helping matters any. How was it that a genuinely upset woman could make you feel like you’re the bad guy even after being kidnapped and attacked by swords and fire thingamajigs?
Kneeling down, I touched her shoulder, which initially cringed at my touch as I said in my most soothing voice, which I usually only used on my mother’s dog.
“It’s okay, Mercedes. You’re okay. You’re O K. Is it alright if I call you Mercy?”