“Well, that escalated quickly.”
I’m not quite sure when everything went so pear shaped… well, that’s not quite true, I’ve been screwed since I woke up, but now whatever Lumpy did blasted down the thin double doors that had been closed behind me, and… yup, definitely killed the two guys I’d KOed before. Jesus, it’s like a grenade went off.
No one could have ignored the commotion just now. I’m gonna have to move fast if I wanna get any kind of head start. Maybe pass myself off as evacuating Mercy? And the girl. Let’s go with that.
“Okay,” I stated emphatically to the slightly calmer Mercy, whose trembling and weeping had subsided, “I’m going to need a stretcher or a gurney to move the girl. We’re going to play it like she was injured in an accident and get the hell out before people come to see what went boom. Come on, Mercy, you’re on deck.”
“No one’s going to come here,” said Mercy, listlessly but with absolute certainty.
I was about to kick up to third gear, but that tone of voice gave me pause. I need to know what she knows. “Why wouldn’t they come? Shit blew up. People always check on shit that blows up.”
“Not here, not this. None of the soldiers here have clearance to enter this room, and even if they did, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want to, under any circumstances. They don’t like the yelling or the clean up.”
That’s… convenient. No, too convenient. “No offense, but how am I supposed to trust anything you say, Mercy? You work here after all.”
“Not anymore,” Mercy almost sobbed out. “I’m Enslaved to you now. I can’t betray you, disobey you, or knowingly place you in danger. So it’s the truth when I say that no one is going to come in here unless ordered to by the Colonel, and, well, he’s…”
Mercy came to a choked halt. Guess she’s not accustomed to death.
“Okay, Mercy, it’s alright, I’ll believe you for now. But, uh, how are you enslaved to me?”
Mercy sniffed loudly, then began a quavering explanation. “The Enslavement Collar… when you forced me to tell you my name it was the Key of Submission. I gave in to the Demand of Identity which allowed the collar’s curse to activate. As a result, if I try to perform an act of Disobedience, the Curse of Binding Chains will kill me from the inside out.”
“Curse?” Wow, this is such a shady story.
“Yes, you should have seen the chains that dissolved to smoke? That was the inactive curse, laying dormant. The smoke entered my body and will bind me until I die.”
“Or I do,” I said cynically.
“The Curse is keyed to your life force, Specimen One Forty Seven. Your magical imprint. If that disappears from this world, the Curse will know, and it will punish me for not protecting you.”
“Wow… Uh, sorry about that, then.”
Mercy remained quiet. Guess she doesn’t feel like accepting the apology. Awkward. Anywho, info, I need info.
“Anyway, Mercy, I need answers. Where am I and who are these people? You people, I guess? Why was I kidnapped?”
Mercy looked me straight in the eyes, then for some reason looked away again quickly and stated with a tone of voice as if she were looking me in the eyes, “You weren’t kidnapped, One Forty Seven. You were summoned.”
Maybe these guys are a wacko cult after all. “Summoned? By, like, a higher power? I’m the Holy Chosen One, or something? Cause I’m not feeling very appreciated for being ‘summoned’ right now.”
“No, no, not a Hero Summoning. Only the Goddess is able to enact that rite. And only at the Cathedral of Passage in the Holy Capital. …What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Is it just me, or does this sound like the plot of some Japanese video game?
“Has a Demon King been revived or something? Cause I’m not really interested in going on a quest of slowly increasing danger until I face off against the enemy of all life.”
“…I’m afraid I don’t understand what you just said.”
“Nevermind. Just… how was I summoned?”
“Oh,” exclaimed Mercy, rocketing up to her feet and talking with excitement while pointing with her fingers. “By accumulating Magic Power in the quartz batteries, we were able to collect enough Power to activate the quad-layered circle, whose construction allowed the switching out of batteries without power bleed as long as we did it fast enough. Each layer is constructed with specific quantifications of search and retrieval for suitable subjects on the other side of the Void Divisions, much like the circle in the Cathedral, but without depending on the Goddess for empowerment or search criteria in the subject selection process, allowing a far greater degree of autonomy for activation, especially, since the quad-layer design retains some of the cast off-”
“Shut up!” Mercy pulled back like a startled mouse. Damn it, let’s try again. “Okay, Mercy, try explaining it to me like I don’t have a master’s degree in Fringe Science. Please?”
“Oh. Ummm… okay. We, uh, use accumulated Magic Power to force a small hole in the barriers that keep our worlds apart, allowing the circle to search for someone suited to being a mighty warrior, and bring them here. The in depth theory is far more elegant, though. Since the search variables require a specific generalness in order to allow a proper sweep of the-”
“Stop that!” Ugh. She jumped again. She’s the type that needs a babysitter, huh? “Why. Me. Simply.”
“Oh. Well, I was ordered to have the search parameters bring us people who had the skill, will, power, and mental fortitude to kill people without feeling overly bad about it.”
Did she just say that with an innocent face!? Was I mistaken for a serial killer!?
“Hey, I’ve never killed anyone! …Except that dude over there, but that was totally self defense. I don’t fit your profile, Mercy. And why would you even want human time bombs like that?”
“To enslave them into a special experimental unit in the Fulchas Kingdom’s military.”
Again! With an innocent face! And they think I’m the sociopath here!
“I’m not cut out for the military! If I was ever drafted, I was gonna be a conscientious objector! You got the… enslave?”
Oh, crap. Dots just connected. I glanced at the girl on the ground, back at Mercy, or more specifically the collar on her throat and the bindings on her wrists. Then I felt my wrist, remembering the sensation of the bindings beforehand. The first thing that happened after I came too in this room was being handcuffed and Colonel Lumpy shouting at me to tell him my name.
“You tried to enslave me using that collar I had you wear, didn’t you? And you were going to do the same thing to the girl I saw floating in the lights.”
“Well, yes. Otherworlders have only ever been summoned for their battle prowess, so the only ones who would be willing to fund this kind of research would be national militaries. The Fulchas Kingdom, specifically, like I said.”
With a straight face. What the hell? Am I actually going crazy? No, no family history, no previous incidents, no exceptional “stressors” as they call them on TV. I’m not crazy.
“So, this guy is military? You said he was a Colonel? That’s a high rank, but not the highest, right?”
Mercy followed after me at four paces behind as I walked over to the guy I killed and really took a good look at him for the first time.
“Yes, one rank short of General. He’s an important man. Was. Was an important man.”
The Colonel’s uniform is rather a lot alike the one I stole, the ones the two mooks burnt and shredded over there were wearing. But the pauldrons were more decorative, there’s colored ribbons on his shoulders, and a sash of green and yellow across his chest with some insignia on it. He’s wearing some kinda ascot around his neck, his pants are nicer than the ones I took, and his boots as well. Hmm. They might be closer to my size.
I bent down, undid the laces, and started yanking on the boots to get them off as Mercy asked me, somewhat agast, “What are you doing?”
No, seriously, I’m not a sociopath. Practicality is not a mental illness. Besides, the boots did fit me better, after all. And there’s no blood on his pants. They’ll make a good pillow for the girl until she comes out of the death coma like I did, as long as I fold the cloth around the plates instead of the other way around. After pulling the pants free, the Colonel had been shifted around enough that his ascot was in disarray and I could see something around his neck I couldn’t see before. It was a leather and metal choker collar. Exactly like the one Mercy was wearing now.