A tunnel of light.
A stream of consciousness.
There was a ceiling, brightly lit, with childrens toys hanging from it.
"Total memory loss?" A voice, demanding and authoritative, asked.
"We haven't been able to determine the cause." Another voice, younger but still assertive, answered. "But he's not conscious. At least not one hundred percent. His brain seems to be asleep."
"I see." The other voice said and a deep, chilling silence fell.
Movement, someone coughed, and then a shadow partially blocked the view of the children's toys.
"Hey!" An old man's face is lined by the overhead light. "Wake up! You're our last chance."
The light brightened until it was all he could see.
He? I'm a man? The thought, when he thought about it, was ridiculous.
The light faded and the man found himself staring at a different ceiling. This one was cleaner, more sterile, and obviously belonged to a medical facility of some kind. He looked around to get his bearings. The air seemed to ripple to his right, as though it were a pool of water, and a woman stepped out of the distortion in a burst of blue sparks. The man could only gape in wonder as she walked up to him, grabbed his shoulders, and began to speak gibberish. He stared into wide, hazel eyes and felt the tiniest flutter in his stomach. Then she moved away, walking backwards, before disappearing the same way she had appeared. The beautiful, raven-haired woman reappeared next to a stand of diagnostic equipment. She crouched; lithe and graceful in her gray-and-black camouflage gear, before springing up impossibly high, only to disappear in another burst of light just before crashing into the ceiling. The equipment was subsequently knocked over.
"Well, looks like you wasted no time in making a mess." A voice came over what sounded like a Public Announcement speaker.
The man, he idly wondered what his name was and why he couldn't remember it, looked upwards to his right and saw a black man wearing glasses waving to him from an observation room.
"Anyway, it's good to see you moving again." The amnesiac stood from the medical bed, noticing groggily that he wore black fatigue pants and metal-capped combat boots. "How do you feel?"
The lab technician turned away and addressed someone the man couldn't see. It was probably over an intercom system of some kind.
"Yeah, he's awake. Tell the chief." The technician turned back to him, "Derrick, I know you're still a little groggy, but I'd like to get started with rehab, and get some baseline data on your physical capabilities while we're at it. I'll need the data for comparison tests later on. I'm going to open the door now. The rehab room is Room One. I'm sorry to push you so hard but please work with us."
The man felt as though his thoughts were slogging their way through a bog. He stared at the man for several seconds before nodding and heading towards the door opposite his bed.
"I'll explain everything once we get started," the tech. assured him, but the man felt a sudden and intense distrust of the technician safe in his observation booth.
Is he afraid of me? The man wondered as he headed out the door.
The corridor was featureless except for speakers and fire alarms at four meter intervals. The gray-steel metal was pristine and looked absolutely sterile. He followed the corridor, it turned twice, before coming to a sign hanging from the ceiling with the number one on it. It pointed to the corridor on his left so he took it. His breathing was heavy and labored. Somehow the man knew he was in much better physical condition than this.
A flash of memory halted him outside the door a few meters down the hall. He was running through an obstacle course with other young men, most in their late teens, in dark gray jumpsuits. He was well ahead of the others as they climbed a cargo net suspended high above a lake. His breath came easy and his muscles sang with the physical exertion.
Then he was back in the hospital having trouble breathing and standing on rubbery legs outside of Rehab Room One. He took a deep breath and entered. The tech. was waiting for him in an observation booth above him on the right.
"Alright, let's get to work. First one question: What's your name?"
"I… can't remember." the sound of his own voice startled the man slightly. It was deep and gentle but wholly unfamiliar.
"You don't know… well, no surprise there. Looks like you still have some memory impairment. We'll need to run some detailed tests."
Anger flared hot and heavy for a moment at the technician's attitude. He was being treated like a lab rat.
"First an eye test. Stand in the red ring and look at the red mark on the wall."
The man did as he was told only because he had been promised answers.
"Good, now face downward."
There was a peculiar emblem set beneath the red marker. The acronym C.S.C was stenciled beneath the emblem.
"Good. Now look at the blue marker."
The man, feeling more and more like he should be getting a slice of cheese, did so.
"Okay, no problems there. Let's move on to Room Two."
The walk to the next room cleared his head somewhat and he felt stronger. He stepped into an enclosed room, two walls were made of clear glass, that overlooked a gymnasium of some sort.
"Get the card key from the top of the desk," the voice came from nowhere but a surveillance camera on the wall let him know he was being watched.
The man looked to his left and saw a computer desk with a bright yellow keycard on it. He snatched it up and examined it. The card had the number zero before the words 'Cardlock System.'
"Use that to open the door."
The man glanced at the camera with a wry expression.
No shit, he thought before moving to the door opposite the desk.
The card reader was so simple a child could use it. A yellow picture of a hand holding a card sat below a large graphic of the zero numbered keycard. Once he swiped it across, the picture the graphics turned blue and the door opened.
"Alright. Now the next test will involve some exercise, so I hope you're ready.
His mind was clearing more with every passing minute and so was the feeling that he was being led around by a colossal jackass. As he walked down a flight of metal stairs a tremor shook the entire room. He grabbed the handrail to avoid plunging headfirst into the ground. It was over in a few seconds and of course the jackass had something to say.
"That was a big one… nothing to worry about though. Japan is earthquake central. We get them all the time. Unfortunately that board fell in that last one. Sorry, Derrick, but you'll have to jump across to the other side."
Derrick, huh. Maybe that is my name. Anyway, it'll do until I get more answers.
The room was divided by a trench two meters wide.
Only two meters. I feel like I couldn't jump half a meter. Here goes nothing.
Derrick took three quick strides and leapt with all his might. To his surprise, he cleared the trench quite easily.
"Go through there while you're crouched."
The room ended in a wall with a waist-high square cut in the bottom.
"There's no need to crawl."
I hope he isn't going to coach me through every obstacle.
Derrick wasn't surprised when the tech. did, but he quickly learned to ignore the jackass. The next section was just a deep hole with a ladder leading up the wall on his left. He jumped into the hole, climbed the ladder, and was only slightly winded when he got to the top. Derrick was recovering quickly, far too quickly from the unsettled feeling he was getting, but he filed that away to worry about later. He jumped down to the other side and saw an even smaller hole cut into the wall in front of him. The technician wasn't finished telling him to go through the hole before he was standing on the other side. Once through he came to a gap far too long to jump. There was a bar two meters up the wall on his right that reached the other side. Derrick grabbed the bar and began shimmying his way across. Derrick was really getting sick of hearing The Jackass' voice. He was halfway across when he noticed a strange green blur in his upper left visual quadrant.
Who the fuck thinks like that? He thought with a shake of his head as he blinked to try to clear the blur.
That only made it more defined and he saw that it looked like the status bar of a videogame.
Maybe it's a side effect of whatever they did to me.
Derrick decided not to say anything when he got to the other side. He would bide his time until he got someone in front of him. The last obstacle, he was mildly disgusted to see, was a simple wall too high to hop up to. Derrick jogged to the wall, leaped up to get a grip, planted one foot, and boosted himself up.
"Well, your physical capabilities seem just fine… The next test is the last one. Let's get through it as quickly as possible and break for lunch."
Derrick's stomach growled at the thought and he found himself in agreement with The Jackass for the first time since he woke up.
"Go to Room Three, please."
The exit door opened and Derrick quickly walked to Room Three. Room Three was a quick left turn from the main hallway and looked like a small shooting range. There was a door at the opposite side of the room with a card reader that had a blue number '1' keycard graphic. It seemed that they wanted to keep him contained.
"Okay, let's see how your shooting skills have held up. Don't worry, they're rubber bullets. Pick up the gun."
To the left of the door he had come in was a small console with the butt of a 9mm sidearm sticking out. Derrick picked it up and noted how natural it felt in his hand. He studied it and a wealth of information about the weapon seemed to unfold in his mind.
"Now pick up a clip and load it."
Derrick was so fascinated by the knowledge and feelings surging through him that The JackAss' smart-ass tone failed to anger him. With smooth, practiced motion that came as naturally as breathing, Derrick slid the clip into the handgun and undid the safety.
"Now try and shoot the targets."
On his left a paper target slid out from the wall at the far end of the range. Derrick walked up to the wall and held his gun with both hands as he took careful aim.
Two to the heart and one to the head.
Derrick fired without conscious thought and strangely felt nothing except satisfaction that he was still a good shot.
"Good." The Jackass said as the paper target slid smoothly away. " Next I'll put two targets up. Shoot the one I tell you to shoot."
Two targets appeared; one read and one blue.
"Red." this time a single shot to the head.
The Jackass switched it up and each time Derrick scored a hit on the designated target.
"Now let's try some hand-to-hand combat." The metal shutters at the end of the range slid up to reveal a set of mirrors. "I realize you're still recovering, but I need your cooperation on these tests."
Well, what the fuck have I been giving then? Stupid shit.
"But don't worry, we're almost done for the day. Derrick, I want you to try some basic fighting moves to test your muscle functions. Give me a quick jab."
The urge to see what he looked like was suddenly overwhelming and Derrick made a beeline straight to the mirrors as the gate opened in the waist-high wall. Derrick looked like he was in his mid-to-late twenties and was maybe one hundred, seventy-five centimeters tall. His hair was dark brown and tousled. He had eyes that were a light blue but seemed out of place on his narrow, impish face. Derrick was muscular, well-toned, but not that bulky.
Am I handsome? He thought, rubbing his chin as he leaned closer, and looked into his eyes. Yes, I am handsome.
"Hey, I don't have all day, Derrick. If you're through admiring yourself could you give me a quick jab."
The Jackass talked Derrick through a set of basic movements that unlocked a plethora of martial skill in his mind and body. Muscle-memory kicked in and Derrick began a complex routine of punch-kick combinations.
"Good job. That was the last test for the day. Your lunch is ready for you in your room. Take a break. You've earned it. Put the gun back where you found it."
Derrick returned the gun to the console and double-timed it to his room.
Double-time? Was I in an army? Makes sense with my fitness level and how I handled that gun.
There were three items on the tray next to his bed that weren't there before. He had left the flak jacket there but the burger, still steaming, can of juice, and clipboard was new.
The juice I get but is a burger what they give hospital patients?
Derrick picked up the clipboard.
That was the header of the chart. It was about a subject named… Test Subject Seven.
What kind of jackass came up with that?
Most of the chart was medical jargon that was totally lost on him. The test subject had been transferred from Terminus Seven on August 30th.
What year is it?
Derrick flipped the page and was disgusted by what he saw. On September 3rd it read: Urination X4; Defecation X2. Then something far more telling than that: No change in coma state. Dosage 1200.
Dosage of what?
The next page began again with a date four days later and a count of bodily evacuations. The bold type that stood out read: Respiration improved. Brain activity and heart rate are equivalent to conscious state. That was it and Derrick put the clipboard down secure in the knowledge they were talking about him. He swiped up his burger and took two quick bites. Derrick chewed as he mused on his situation.
A churning in his gut was the first sign that something was wrong. The room began to swim and his vision blurred except for the hallucination of a green status bar. Derrick dropped the burger and grabbed his throat as he felt the drug sapping his will. Thankfully he collapsed onto his back on his cot.
"Don't worry, we gave you a little something to help you rest. We'll continue rehab after you wake up."
I'm gonna fuck you up, first thing.
The sound of a door sliding open came over the P.A. followed by clod of standard-issue combat boots pounding against the floor. There was the soft clack-clack of someone working the bolt of a sub-machinegun.
"Who are you?" The Jackass asked nervously.
Looks like someone beat me to it. Derrick thought groggily just before a burst of gunfire cut off a pathetic whimper.
A spray of blood coated the little bit of observational booth Derrick could make out. Several seconds, or minutes, later the door to his room opened and three men in body armor and standard camouflage came in. They swept the room aggressively with SMG's before they all fixed their sights on Derrick. One came up to him and lifted him by the collar of his T-shirt so the leader could get a better look. The black man holding him up looked at his ivory-skinned squad leader for confirmation. The leader looked at Derrick and then fixed a steely glare on his subordinate.
They were all wearing helmets with visors but the black soldier's was opaque. The set of his jaw was grim as he pushed Derrick back to the bed. The two backed up and all three aimed their weapons.
This is it, Derricks thoughts were turbid, I survived all kinds of heavy shit and this is how it goes. I can't even tell them to suck my dick. I'm so fucked.
The glass of the observational booth shattered. A figure leaped down with amazing speed and the soldier closest to the glass fell with a slit throat. A figure in black and gray combat gear spinning side-kicked the squad leader with tremendous power. He folded like an accordion as the wet crack of his chest being collapsed filled the room. The squad leader crashed into the wall with bone-crushing force. The black man fired his SMG on full auto but somehow the woman spun away from the bullets, ran onto the wall next to the soldier as he tried to get a bead but she was moving too fast. Somehow the woman turned the corner so that she was above Derrick's head just before springing from the wall and scissor-kicking the man in the helmet hard enough to break his neck with a dull snap.
The woman walked to this bedside as if taking down three armed soldiers was something she did every morning for her warm-up.
"Wow, you're a mess," she said in a smooth, sultry voice. She came closer and… he blinked slowly but she was still there. "But at least you're still breathing."
The woman waved a hand in front of his face and shook her head. She lifted him off the bed and Derrick found she was only a little shorter than he was. The woman wrapped his arm around her neck and helped him towards the toilet. He couldn't take his eyes off of her.
Damn if she isn't hot, he thought with a syrupy smile.
"The research lab was full of soldiers." She said, glancing up at him with big, hazel eyes as if he knew what the hell was going on.
She helped him kneel in front of the toilet.
"Okay, now its time to lose your lunch."
With that she jammed her middle finger down his throat.
Wouldn't have done that with fingerless gloves, Derrick thought just before heaving hamburger chunks into the toilet.
"First thing we gotta do is get out of this building. And then meet up with Glen." She spoke as he puked.
Once he was done she helped him back to the bed. Derrick's head began to clear and he wondered how the fuck he had gotten himself into the FUBAR'd situation. He looked the woman up and down. She wore a sleeveless shirt under a cloth-like Kevlar vest.
"Anyway, its good to see you again."
Again? Fuck, I hate not having my memory.
The woman wore a 10mm sidearm in a hip holster and wore various straps about her person for additional gear. The straps in the V of her crotch especially drew his attention.
She just killed three men in a heartbeat without breaking a sweat and all I can think about is the way the straps make her crotch look, he thought, angry at himself.
"Who are you?" Derrick asked hostilely.
To his surprise the woman looked shocked and a little hurt as she recoiled slightly.
"You really don't know, do you?" She gesticulated with her hands as she spoke, which he found odd; "I'm Alex. I came to get you." She held out her hands as though she were grasping something. "Glen Ogawa, the chief scientist of this research center, sent me."
An explosion, close by, followed by a fire alarm, drew her attention.
"We can't stay here." Alex said as she turned back to him. "If we do, we're history." A computerized voice began to warn about something that he couldn't make out. "Derrick, you promised me you wouldn't let me die. Time for you to make good on that promise. Move it, soldier."
Alex held out her hand, the other on a slender hip, and Derrick could only stare.
Do I have a fucking choice?
Derrick took her hand and she hauled him on his feet with minimal effort.
"Arm yourself; they won't need 'em." Alex said as she walked towards the door.
Derrick took an SMG and nine-mil from the squad leader and loaded up on ammo from the others. He took it over to the flak jacket and packed the compartments. Derrick slid the body armor on and made a few practice swings to test the flex.
"Okay. Let's get out of here," Alex said, but another voice intermingled with hers.
"Time to do or die, Cole. Are you ready?"