Chapter 5: Time to Wake Up
I swallow the pill and shut my eyes, expecting to succumb to an epileptic fit and death, but something strange happens. I feel woozy and light headed, like I have a very strong alcohol buzz and I can feel my eyeballs twitching to catch up to it's movements. I open them, hoping to find somewhere to sit down. In my line of sight, I'm taken aback by the sight of my fingertips. Like a weird strange movie, they flicker and liquefy like mercury before me.
"What in the hell-" I say aloud as I struggle to search around for somewhere to sit.
I hear Morrigan explaining something about me accepting and allowing them to locate where I am. It makes no sense, I am right here in front of her. If this is a drug, it is the worst trip I have been on. I stumble toward the desk as my skin and my body seems to be de-materializing before me. I stand in shock, staring at my arms, trying to make sense of what the hell is happening to me. My vision is fading and everything goes dark as I feel the last vestiges of what I had seen of my body, tingling with pins and needles. It is like my whole body has fallen asleep from bad circulation. I let out a desperate cry of help, but I'm not sure if my mouth is even moving. Before long, there is nothing.
I listen in on the conversation between Morrigan and Thane. After the small talk, I can hear that the pills are out on the table.
I activate the communicator, "Zero, you guys better be in place." I scold impatiently.
Zero and Javelin were supposed to have been in place to be ready to locate Thane's pod in the dairy while I got her to the warehouse. I call it the dairy because that's what it is like to me. The machines have people locked away in pods, 'milking' or using their brains for their purposes. The brain has always been an untapped resource of memory and potential. In a matter of years after the advent of artificial intelligence, the machines fashioned a way to harvest the brain's power. It wasn't long before the machines decided that humans were less destructive and much more useful as computing power. Humans became like cattle to them. There is no sentiment to their actions, they just see a means of getting the computing power they need and they simply take it.
A crackle over the device interrupts my thoughts.
"Yeah, yeah! Hold your horses." Zero responds lazily. "We're just around the corner. Give us five more minutes."
It's a wonder he can find his own nose. "You let this one get flushed, and Morrigan will never forgive you." I threaten.
"She's my sister, she'll get over it.." he answers back.
The dreaded flushing. The red pills that we don't locate in time are disposed of by the machines. With the flip of a bit, the pod's bottom will open and drop the wakened sleeper into their disposal level below to be liquefied and destroyed. I cringe at a memory of my own close call. I prepare to open the door to see the outcome. Did Thane take the pill or did he wuss out? I open the door and see that he has taken the pill.
"Go!" I yell across the communicator. In that second I hear their homing devices beeping loudly over the communicator.
"Got the signal!" Javelin verifies.
Morrigan is struggling to explain to Thane what is happening. Too little too late, I always thought. We can't tell them the real reason for the pill until they make their decision.
"Morrigan, he's not going to make sense of anything you are saying. Let's go before the agents start sniffing around."
She looks at me and answers, "I can't, not this one. I'm going to watch and make sure that we get this one. Then we'll leave." I growl my disappointment but wait cautiously with her. By now, Thane's residual image is laying on the floor doubled over, overwhelmed by the effects of the pill. The interference that is ported in the execution of the pill to mask Thane from the machines likely is throwing his perception out of whack. Without that interference however, we can't trace Thane's location, so it can't be helped.
"Zero has the signal! Let's go, we can help Zero and Javelin better from the ship anyway." I tell her impatiently. She reluctantly looks from me to Thane. I can see that she knows I'm right. To my relief, she agrees.
"Javelin open up a line out."
My eyes open to the shock of where I am. Somehow, from the floor of a warehouse, I have ended up lying down, encased in a container of pink fluid. A large, chrysalis shaped, horizontal pod. Things have just gone from bad to worse as I begin to panic. In this fluid I struggle and realize that there is a mask on my face and my head is attached to a helmet of some kind, and cords seem to jut from parts of my body. I seem to have a port on the back of my neck and somewhere I'd rather not say. I guess they have figured out my secret, since I am naked and my scalp is shaved bald. Have they made me into a science experiment? I desperately reach for the apparatuses around my face, and pull the cords from my body, because I don't know what they are for, or why they are there. It is foreign, and I want it off, and I want to get out of here! I neglected to realize that it probably wasn't the brightest course of action, as the pod begins to emit a trilling alarm that I can hear through the fluid and container and I remember that I need air to breathe. So I sit up and try to stand, out of the vat like a child birthed from their mother's canal.
The gooey fluid still clings to my skin and face. I do my best to wipe the slime from them, when my breath is caught and my eyes behold a nightmarish sight. All around me in similar pods, are hundreds of naked others; in the same machinations, unaware of their condition, in a dark arena of wires and cords. I can't help but wonder what kind of sick, twisted experiments, they have been doing upon us, or even for how long! I am dumbstruck because I don't know whether to flee or to take them with me. My limbs feel weak, and I feel like a newborn foal finding balance. I notice that the floor is not a floor, but my vat is suspended and connected to a sparse frame. A connected lattice work binds all of the pods to each other. There seems to many rows of them.
As I maneuver my way out of the vat, my sense of urgency is evoked because the vat I am in, begins to stop it's trill and begins to make strange sounds. I don't want to be near the thing, so I try hard to pull myself out with my atrophied limbs. Who knows what is going to happen. My questions are answered as the bottom of the vat suddenly opens wide like a trap door, spilling out the contents of me and my ill afforded home, my arms too weak to hold on. I cry out, but my throat seems unused. I try to look down down for a moment to see below me, what I see is a wide river of some kind. As I fall, my stomach does tumbles, my mind is racing. It is as if we are a commodity on a shelf, ready to be dropped like a purchase out of a vending machine. I hit the water, and the splash and the surface of water assaults my back. I'm going to drown with these useless limbs, but I'd rather die than be someone's experiment. I don't want to die, but I settle into the cold prickling water and close my eyes resigning myself to my end.
"There!" I yell at the speck in the water in the monitors. Javelin maneuvers the crane over it. Drifting in the dairy disposal water below is Thane, slowly being drained to the treatment plant. The deluge of water and makeshift river is a throughway to the place where fluids and expended bodies are 'treated'. In other words, mixed with chemicals to liquefy and be reused or re-purposed. Expired pod dwellers are expelled at their death, and when the red pill is taken, and the signals are blocked, red pills are treated like the dead. It is important we locate them in time before they get too far along the deluge. I remember my swim. I remember frantically trying to swim my way out, but Thane seems to be out, or giving up. Really pathetic, such a shame. If this is who Morrigan is hoping will be the one, I don't have high hopes.
The crane is raised to the ship with the human cargo. Me and Zero rush to the cargo bay to get him out and to the regeneration chamber. As the crane comes into view, the sprawled out body of Thane Everton shocks us to the core. Maybe there is much more to this red pill than I have ever expected. I don't just mean the biological mindfuck that he, nay, she!, has put us through.
"Holy sh-" Zero exclaims, his eyes as wide as saucers, frozen in place staring at the woman who was supposed to be a man.
"Turn around knucklehead! I'll handle it, go prep the chamber." I tell him.
He doesn't react at first, his jaw is still slack, so I forcibly turn him around and shove him out with a kick to his behind. He regains his voice and says, "Nice!" in his annoying pervish tone as he exits. I turn back to the crane and use the blanket I have to cover her up. She is breathing, but not moving so I try to lift her up over my shoulder. As I dip to the floor, I freeze as her eyes open wide and our gazes lock. The green paralyzes me.
To be continued in Chapter 6