Around here, the week goes “Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Twicebound”, and I haven’t quite gotten used to the idea. However, thanks to a highly pestiferous reader, you actually get your installment, rather than listen to me babble about how I forgot what day it was. Again. So, here’s your Saturday…
Chapter 3 – part 3
The whining of the machine echoed in Eddie’s head like the buzz of an angry bee. Its effect on him was more than a little pronounced; he’d started shaking all over again.
“Okay, Kaul, listen. That chip in your arm will record time, GPS data, your pulse rate, and blood pressure.”
His own reply startled him; he hadn’t thought he could fake that kind of calm.
“Now, it’ll do that automatically. What you need to remember is that it’s got a timer and a three milligram capsule of tetrodotoxin.”
That got his attention. He stared at Benwright as the tech recalculated a formula on his computer.
“Run dat by me, agin? ‘dotoxin?”
“Yeah. Tetrodotoxin; puffer-fish venom. Half a milligram is usually lethal, if it’s applied intravenously, but there’s no point taking chances. Three milligrams is practically… overkill.”
Benwright frowned at that, shaking his head over the accidental pun. Eddie just swallowed. Hard. The idea of the computer in his bicep containing enough poison to kill six of him wasn’t a pleasant one. As it was, though, it had been in there for half an hour and hadn’t killed him yet. That meant it wasn’t a really serious problem, unlike the massive, humming machine behind him.
“Okay, now, the only thing you need to remember is to be at the police station again on March 19th . If you aren’t… that timer dumps the tetrodotoxin into your bloodstream.”
“‘old on a minute! T’day’s the 22nd, idn’t it? So ‘ow am I sposed to be in d’police station on the 19th if dat was four days ago?”
The technician stared at him for a second, then shook his head.
“You’ll figure it out. Or you won’t. Besides, Vančura there is going through the STAd right behind you. With any luck, both of you will make it to the other side. Once that happens, both of your chips are programmed for the same place, the police station. Getting there will be a lot easier if you co-operate and he knows it, so I’m sure he’ll explain how this works.”
He gave Vančura a hard stare before turning back to the workstation.
“He seems to know as much about it as I do, anyway.”
Even in his fright, Eddie caught the slow nod and wink the Vančura threw his way. Something about the gesture reassured Eddie slightly. At least someone in the room knew what was going on.
With a grunt and the squeak of old bearings, Benwright shoved his chair away from the computer and stood up. He stretched painfully, then nodded at the guard next to Eddie.
Thirty seconds later, Eddie was standing under the STAd, staring up at the blunt cone overhead. The ominous hum and clicks coming from high above made him glance around, hoping the guards weren’t paying attention. Making a run for it probably wouldn’t do him much good, but it was better than waiting for the Benwright to punch a red button somewhere.
The guards were watching him, hands on weapons. Eddie sighed and squinted back up at the STAd, wondering what came next. From the computers, there was a loud beep; from somewhere deep in the machine, there was a responding harsh buzz of electricity.
Then, blue light flickered and something slammed into him. An acrid stink of vaporized metal told him something had exploded and he could feel a fine spray hitting his skin. He frowned, or tried to frown; the smell of hot metal and a mist of droplets usually meant crippling pain as flesh burned. But he didn’t feel anything. Another sharp report echoed and he felt himself take another hit, then he faded out.
* * *
It was dark. Not pitch dark; there was a dim glow coming from… somewhere he thought his feet might be. There wasn’t enough feeling anywhere to tell if he was upright or not, so he put out a hand.
To his surprise, the limb worked, stretching out until it met resistance. The finger tips still couldn’t feel, but he could tell there was something there. Curiosity worked away at the dim cloud in his head, but moving any more seemed like it would be tiring, so he lay still.
Gradually, the nerves began to function again, and he realized he was face-down on something hard. He put out another hand and ran it along the surface. It was bumpy, almost like it was rippled. Or corrugated. That sparked a hazy memory.
A pipe. Dark, but getting brighter down by his feet. Cold, but a lot warmer than outside.
The memory cleared; he was in a drainage pipe, sleeping away the chilly March night. That light meant the sun was rising outside, slowly, on the other side of the embankment the pipe was buried in. And if the sun was rising, that meant…
“Hey, you. There’s a city ordinance against loitering, here. Come on out of there, slowly.”
Eddie wriggled backward out of the pipe, scattering newspapers as he went. Once he was standing outside, semi-upright and mostly awake, the cop studied him critically. Eddie knew the guy; he’d met him before, outside a drainage pipe. Right before the cop arrested him for vagrancy.
“Alright, turn around and…”
With a sigh, Eddie about-faced and presented his wrists for the cuffs.
“…an’ put m’hands be’ind m’back.”
After a brief pause, the cuffs clicked shut and the cop spun him back around.
“Yeah, smart guy. I gotta take you down to the police station so the…”
“…boys down dere can run my ID. I done this b’fore.”
The cop scowled and shoved him up the embankment towards the patrol car.
End Chapter 3 – Part 3
Go to Chapter 4 – Part 1
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“Twicebound” is updated every Saturday!