Chapter 1
An Urban Legend Lives

I didn't ask for this at all
But my back's against the wall
I didn't for this at all
But my back's against the wall
I didn't ask for this, for this, for this, at all

The Butterfly Effect, Worlds on Fire

Consciousness returned slowly. Painfully. Among the first sensations to register in her addled mind was that of intense, numbing cold. The cold seemed to seep into and through her skin, flesh and muscle before settling deep into her bones, embracing her in its icy grip.

What happened to me? The question was born from a morass of sludgy half-formed thoughts and images. The red-blue lighting of Chora's, her usual haunt when conducting business. I was supposed to meet somebody. For a job. The rapid tempo of the electronic dance music, the heavy bass signature seeming to pulse through the very air. The dancers writhing seductively atop their podiums, bringing out the very worst carnal instincts of every male of every species in Council Space. Fistfuls of credits waved by leering drunks with over-bright fevered eyes.

As the cold enfolded her ever more deeply within itself, she fought to open her eyes but, for the moment at least, she lacked the proper muscle control needed to accomplish this. The gnawing rat of panic and its twin, fear, began chewing at her as she fought to return to full wakefulness and mobility.

The guy at the bar...the well-dressed man. He bought me a drink...don't normally drink on the job...

The man, tall, clean shaven, with eyes that, in the weird lighting could have been blue or black or brown, met her own for an instant before looking away and again meeting hers. Classic flirtatious body language. As she passed by him on her way to her usual booth at the rear of the club, where she had a fine view of anybody leaving or entering, he stepped away from the bar and asked, "May I buy you a drink?"

She shot him a quick glance as she answered, "Thanks but no, I'm supposed to meet somebody."

Unruffled, the man merely smiled and nodded as he extended his right hand towards her. He wore a gold ring set with onyx on the ring finger. "Charles Sinclair, I'm the person you're meeting. You are Bethany Shepard, correct?"

Beth muttered under her breath, "I so hate these blind meetings," before she shook his hand.

Sinclair gestured at the vacant stool next to his. "So. That drink?"

She nodded. And that's the last coherent thing she could recall.

Motherless son of a...fracker drugged me! Then he did what? Stuff me into walk-in freezer? What is this guy, a deranged serial killer who keeps his victims on ice so he can kill them at his leisure?

With a gasp of chill air, Bethany forced her eyes open, squinting at the harsh white light stabbing down at her from the ceiling. A strangled yelp escaped her lips as she fought to sit upright, icy cold water sloshing over the sides of the tub and sluicing along her bare skin. As she moved and the blood began flowing, she felt intense pins and needles stabbing her all over...tub? Bare skin? "What the frack?" she said and coughed.

Teeth chattering and shivering uncontrollably, Bethany Amber-Louise Shepard looked around at her surroundings, fear and panic subsiding slightly, replaced with surprise and shock. She was naked (what had been done to her?) and lying in a full-length bath tub filled with frigid water and ice. As she moved, more water overspilled the lip of the tub, pooling on the blue and white tile of the bathroom floor.

How'd I get here? Where is here? Holding her arms and hands out before her, trembling as they moved, she saw that her skin was marbled with gooseflesh and tinged a faint blue. As she rotated her hands before her face, she saw that the tips of her fingers were wrinkled from having been in the water for too long a time.

As she fought off the effects of the drug used to render her unconscious and as her body began to feel sensations again, Bethany became aware of an ache in her left side and twisted around to see if she'd been injured at all. Fingers still half-numb and trembling traced over a cut in her lower back; her semi-numbed fingertips felt along the incision, encountering several plasmid stitches.

Oh my holy frack!

Heart suddenly pounding in her chest, Bethany pulled a deep breath into her lungs, feeling the ache sharpen as she did and yelled as loudly as she could, "Somebody help me!" Her voice echoed off the tiled walls of the bathroom, seemed to mock her efforts. "Please! I need help in here!"

Tears, hot against the coolness of her face, fell from her eyes as the full impact of what had happened - what had been done to her - set in: drugged while in Chora's, taken to a med centre somewhere, prepped for surgery Please don't let them have raped me as well, she silently pleaded as she began sobbing in terror. Prepped for surgery and then...then they took a kidney!

"Somebody please help me!" Bethany screamed and winced as the screams rebounded. She attempted to rise, bracing her forearms along the sides of the tub and set her feet on the bottom of the tub. Muscles twitching and jerking, she fell back. As she did, she heard something drop into the water with a plop.

Lying on the floor of the tub was a datapad. It must have been left on the side of the tub by whoever had done this to her. Plunging her hands back into the water and ice, Bethany retrieved the electronic device and wiped the screen clear of water.

A short message had been left for her:

Do not panic
Do not try to move
Medics have been summoned and will be there shortly
Rest assured you will make a full recovery

Bethany drew in another deep breath and screamed. This time it was scream of rage and frustration. She threw the datapad at the far wall with all her strength and it shattered, pieces of black plastic and circuitry bouncing off the floor tiles before coming to rest.

As she sank back into the water, spent, she heard voices and running footsteps from outside.

A/N: Was replaying the Dr Saleon sidequest for the nth time and started thinking about that old urban legend about the guy who wakes up in a bath tub filled with ice and learns he's missing a kidney and I thought to myself "what would happen if the person decided to find the people and get the kidney back?" As you do. Oh some suspension of disbelief, please, for the good of us all.