Origins Part 1: Indoctrination
I’d barely slept a few hours when something shook me awake. I sat up slowly, but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary in the dark. So why did something feel wrong. I went upstairs to see if Heppenheim was still asleep and paused on the stairway.
“-can’t do this. I don’t care what the original plan was, she isn’t go-” whoever he was talking to had cut him off.
“It’s not up to either of us now that he’s gotten involved.” I blinked, recognising Jacob’s voice. What on earth was going on? There was a crash behind me as someone opened the door. I slipped into echo but an arm grabbed me from behind, wrapping across my arms and chest so I couldn’t move.
“Let me go,” I cried.
“Do it,” Jacob demanded, his breath brushing my ear as he spoke to someone else.
“Sorry.” I paused fighting at the sound of Heppenheim voice, then a familiar microsecond of pain passed through my arm. I saw the tip of the needle when he pulled it out. His apologetic face growing blurry before me as consciousness left me.
A loud electric buzz pulled me out of my drowsy, dreamless sleep. I blinked against harsh light as I tried to put back together what had happened. I murmured a curse as I sat up, a quick glance downwards told me I was still wearing the same plain PJ’s.
I spun in a circle but all around me were brightly lit white panels, the low buzz of electricity reaching my ears. I dived into echolocation but there was nothing. Except the panels ahead. There was a mechanism and I had a feeling the panels would open out any moment now. I winced as a high pitched noise permeated my echo, forcing me to return to normal hearing.
“Now that you’re back with us,” a gruff male voice muttered around me. Where was it coming from? Whatever this room was sealed in, it was thick with no gaps whatsoever, my echo had no hope of penetrating it. So by that logic there’s no way an intercom can exist. Unless means others than those were being used.
“Figured it out? I’m talking directly to your mind Juliette,” the male voice continued. “Of course the one behind this would prefer to speak to you directly, but we have to follow all the safeguards here,” he continued. The panels before me opened as I predicted, revealing another similar room, only this time there was a table. On top was a plain handgun and a clip containing eight bullets.
“There are seven others like you in this place. You each have eight bullets.” Something about the mental voice felt different now, was he talking to all of us at once? What on earth was going on here? “There is no food, water or survival equipment. Just the maze around you. Only one of you will be allowed out of this place. I’m sure you’re all capable of doing the math required.” I felt a disconnect in my mind and gasped.
I stared at the gun on the table and realised another wall of panels had opened. Only one would be let out, and a gun. Eight bullets. Enough to take out each person and fuck up once. Alternatively, an extra in case you gave up. I pushed aside the dark thought. Where was Heppenheim? This couldn’t be happening. No, wait, Heppenheim had knocked me out. Was this the whole reason why he had been tense since we were told to come to England? No, he would’ve given me some warning, right?
“Well, since some of you haven’t moved yet I’ll add another incentive. Twelve hours or you all die, how’s that sound?” I winced at the sharp intrusion. The guy could try be a little gentler with the mind invasion.
Twelve hours. I didn’t have time to stand here thinking. I looked at the gun and clip. Heppenheim had made me recognise these weapons with my echo. He’d also shown me how to take them apart and put them together. I heard the small click as I inserted the clip. The doorway into the white maze seemed to glow almost brighter as I approached it. How was I going to survive this? I’d gotten into fights, sure, but never outright killed someone.
The doorway snapped shut the moment I cleared it, I spun wide-eyed, slamming a hand on the panel. I wasn’t ready for that illusionary safe space to disappear. I gulped and looked around me. Ahead and to either side corridors stretched out, 6’5 in height and the width of barely two people. I tried once again to find a way out but my echo just hit panels and found a dizzying maze. I felt a headache coming on trying to map out where I was. A sharp sound sounded nearby. I ran in the opposite direction, throwing my echo backwards. A tall person was stood over a collapsed body. I could hear in the feedback that the body on the ground was surrounded by a viscous liquid. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what had happened.
My footsteps got faster, my chest tightening. This was really happening. I squeezed my eyes shut, internally crying out for Heppenheim. When I opened them it was as I was colliding with someone.
We stared at each other with wide scared eyes. He had an average frame and build, dark hair and pale eyes. Nothing particularly special to look at until you looked at his left hand where he awkwardly held a gun. It was obvious he wasn’t used to the weapon, I suspected it was the same for me. A crash sounded behind us and we both started.
“The guy behind us has already killed one person,” I whispered. Then I stood up and raced past him. I dove into echo in time to see the shooter catch up and start chasing the guy I left behind. So much for him. I didn’t bother using echo to confirm anything when I heard two shots fire. I just dimly hoped they had taken each other out.
I slowed to a walk and mapped my immediate area around me. How large was this place? So far I’d only encountered three people; two of which were dead. Maybe if I could find an end wall I might have a chance to find my way out. This place had to have an exit somewhere. How else would they have dropped us here?
“Four down, four to go. How about we add some incentive to get this over with faster?” I frowned at the voice, incentive? Suddenly my echo could reach above me. I traced thin pipes to a large chamber, the atmosphere felt thick.
“Oh no,” I whispered. I realised running wasn’t going to avoid whatever was in there. The pipes let out everywhere. I moved forward, trying to concentrate on the world around me, but it felt increasingly more difficult to do so. My energy was draining slowly and my vision felt hazy.
“Juliette, you’re not dumb, you’ve already proved that. Your time left is a hour if that, unless you turn around and start fighting.” I shuddered at the voice, my treacle-trenched mind struggling to think. They were poisoning us? No that made no sense. That would kill us, and obviously they wanted something out of this sick game, right? The air then. They were altering what we were breathing in. Removing the oxygen and replacing it with something. I slid down the wall, resting my forehead against the cool panels. Strange that they were cool but so bright. This place was obviously made of thick materials. I frowned at the panel before me and stood up. I backed away to the other side of the wall and lifted my gun. I shot once. The material altered. Twice. I could see visible ripples in the material. Thrice. Something shattered and fell onto the floor.