Chapter 3

A shaft of light went diagonally from the door to across the face of a small young man curled into a ball. His eyes flickered under his closed eyelids. Numbers and expressions flashed across his dreams, scrolling up and out of sight, like end credits in fast forward. The last line of algebra and punctuation flew up and away and there was a gap in the tirade of information, a single word started to quickly appear from the bottom of his consciousness, ‘RUN’.

His eyes snapped open and he took a deep breath in, taking in with it a good handful of dust from the floor. He squinted, although the small room was very dimly lit, what little light there was, was shining right in his eyes. He patted the floor around him as if looking for something, after not finding it he stopped looking. He brushed the back of his ears and rubbed the bridge of his nose, he wasn’t quite sure why, but something was missing.

He got up and squinted through the gap in the door where the light was coming from. He could see a lit hallway on the other side of a sparsely decorated room and not much else. He moved left and right trying to get a better view. He was squinting so hard it began to give his face cramp and he stopped. To his surprise he could see just as well without squinting, which lead him to wonder why he was squinting in the first place. He looked over his hands, arms, boots, grey trousers and taupe shirt and then around the room. It was a concrete floored cell with very little to be said for it apart from the fact it had a ventilation shaft running across the ceiling. It had clearly been installed​ long after the building of the room because it gouged an untidy hole in the wall it emerged from. It was a thick metal shaft about two and a half meters off of the floor. It was held to the ceiling with metal brackets, one of which was only held on with one screw; it dangled precariously.

The man reached up and grabbed the hanging bracket, he pulled it and it came away from the ceiling. A screw previously in the ceiling clattered to his feet, he pocketed it and considered its usefulness. There was a seam in the vent where the bracket had been, big enough to force the end of the bracket into. He began wiggling the bracket into the vent, hoping to be able to get into it, but wasn’t sure this was helping. The sound of metal scraping on metal began to make him cringe and he wondered how well this could be heard outside his cell.

The bracket caught on something inside the vent and the young prisoner pulled on it hard to get it unstuck. Suddenly a great deal of vent came crashing down from the ceiling onto the floor, exposing an network of metal tubes. After the crash had subsided the captive was sure that it couldn’t’ve gone unnoticed, and sure enough rushed footsteps started to get louder and nearer.

Clambering onto the segments of vent strewn across the floor the prisoner pulled himself into the now open vent and squeezed inside, it was a tight fit but enough for him to be able to commando crawl away from his cell into the murky darkness. He could hear commotion behind him as the door of his cell was unlocked and flung open. Various unclear exclamations and accusations filled the metal maze which only encouraged him to crawl faster and further.

He got to a right hand turn and squeezed himself around the corner, presumably out of sight. He was breathing short, hard breaths that smelled of rust and sweat, his neck ached from craning it up to look where he was going. Where was he going? He thought, trying to peer over his shoulder. He reasoned that vents pump cool air in from outside and so this vent must lead out somewhere. This vent system was essentially a conventional maze, with turns and junctions and presumably dead ends. It’s either a right-hand or left-hand maze, meaning that following a wall would lead him to the middle of the maze, or out. Of course, he continued to think, there could be loops within the maze. He reached for the screw in his pocket and backed up slightly. He scratched an ‘X’ on the floor of the vent, he shuffled forward and licked his finger. It was very slight but on the damp tip of his finger he could feel a cool breeze coming towards him. As he had already done a right turn, he decided to follow the right wall, marking every intersection with an ‘X’, if he were to come across an ‘X’ he would mark the intersection with another ‘X’, take the first left turn and continue to follow the right wall. It was foolproof, or so he thought.

He began to crawl forward, a new determination in each forward lunge. He continued passed a left turn, marking the intersection with an ‘X’ using the screw. The shaft wasn’t as dark as it could have been, due to the poor construction of the vent, light leaked in from various cracks and crevices. The breeze on his face began to get a little stronger and he could feel his lungs filling up like blowing into a folded paper bag. He turned a corner, hoping to see an exit but was disappointed to see more ventilation shaft spread out before him. His knees hurt and he kept banging his head on the top of the shaft, he was confident however that his movements were at least somewhat concealed by the low machine hum he could hear in the distance.

He began to get sweaty, the vent reflected his body heat back at him and it was hard work moving on his knees and elbows. For the first time since he had woken up he wondered where in the world he was. He tried to work backwards starting with the night before. But night before what? He had no idea what time it was or indeed if the last thing he did was the night. Okay he thought, what’s the last thing I can remember? He delved into the murky backwaters of his mind, he couldn’t think straight, he was too hot and it’s almost impossible to focus if you don’t know what you are focussing on.

A bead of sweat ran down his nose and dropped into the metal surface, he soaked it up with his taupe tank top. He didn’t like the colour and couldn’t for the life of him think why he would have put it on. He couldn’t remember yesterday, or the day before, in fact he couldn’t be positive he remembered anything. It was as if he was trying to recall a memory from years ago but there was nothing more recent to recall. The last thing he was sure of was a burning hot sensation in the back of his head, a heat hot enough to kill you, and he thought it might have. He gave up trying to recall events and thought about people, various faces flashed up in his memory they had various names attached to them, none were concrete. His own name? He had a feeling it probably began with an M but he wasn’t sure. He tried shaping a few of the vowels silently in his mouth Ma-, Me-, Mo-, Mi-. Mi- sounded the most familiar and he began going through a few names. Mike, Michael, Milton, Midas, Mitch. He bashed his knee hard on the side of the vent. He had stopped properly concentrating on crawling. He decided Mitch would do for now and he straightened up his legs and back. When he set off again he upped his pace.

There was a right turn coming up, this being the third right turn he had taken since his cell he began to doubt the foolproofness of his plan. Around the corner there was a grate in the vent, providing cool air to the room below, through it he could see two stools either side of an upturned bucket with what looked like playing cards on top. He took great care not to put too much weight on the grate as to not fall through it. Once on the other side of the grate he began to hear people below him. 3 or 4 sets of footsteps and something being dragged along the floor. He paused and waited, the sounds were getting louder, he brought his ear to the cold metal to hear better, the shaft creaked under his weight.
‘Take ‘em both to interrogation room A a gruff voice ordered,
‘Sir’, two voices said in affirmation. Mitch bunched up his knees, pressing the side of his head firmly to the floor. He was determined to gleam where he was and why he was here. The entire vent groaned. One of the set of footsteps stopped,
‘You hear that?’ all the other footsteps stopped. The man in the shaft froze, he lifted his head slightly from the vent.
‘Huh?’
‘Hear what?’ said two different voices. There were two loud bangs as someone knocked on the side of the vent. It made a not very hollow thunk.
‘Shhh.’ There was another knock on the side of the shaft but before the second one landed the entire vent collapsed and came crashing dramatically down taking out a nearby fluorescent bulb.

A shower of glass, dust, sparks and twisted metal flew up around a tall moustached man and he reeled back away from the collapsing vent. His eyes were unadjusted to the new light level and he brought up his arms in front of face to protect himself. Two shorter uniformed men turned around quickly, both releasing what they had a firm grip on. The was a small thump.

The man in the vent crawled out of the wreckage he had inadvertently caused and quickly got to his feet. The moustached man was coughing hard, he took a swipe at the ceiling intruder but missed. Once on his feet Mitch had two options; left passed the big man who had just tried to grab him or right passed two gormless looking drone types. He took his chance and ducked between the two men who seemed more concerned with the coughing sergeant who was trying to communicate something.

In front of him he could see a guy with short blonde hair sprinting away incredibly fast, he was wearing grey and taupe and seemed to want to get out of here just as urgently. He began to give chase when someone grabbed his ankles. An arm stuck out toward him,
‘Help…’

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Chapter 2

“New orders from Sarge, check the prisoner.” These were the first words she heard. A shaft of light crossed her neck, she sat slumped on the floor. Only her eyes moved, flickering left and right, trying to establish her surroundings, the rest of her body remained entirely motionless, like it was trying to avoid attracting any unwanted attention. Not getting anywhere she began examining herself, she slowly slid her feet forward so her legs lay along the ground. She was wearing full length lightweight trousers elasticated at the bottom just above a pair of cumbersome black boots. The boots were untied and the laces traipsed about her ankles. She took off her shoes to examine her feet, the beginning of a systematic self-examination. Oddly enough she wasn’t wearing socks underneath her shoes and her feet were clammy. Scooting towards the wall slightly she reached for the shoes and placed them, one next to the other just by her side. She ran her fingers between her toes which proved to be immensely satisfying and wiggled them in opposing directions like short fat grass in a breeze. She wrapped the forefinger and thumb of both hands as far as she could around her legs just above her ankles and ran them up her shins, forcing the elasticated bottom of her trousers up around her knees. The hair on her legs was long and unkempt. For some reason this made her feel uneasy; she expected the hair to be short and coarse, or better still, not there at all.

Click. Her eyes shot up without the rest of her head moving. Using the very tips of her fingers she pushed herself off of the wall behind her and pulled her legs underneath her into a squatting position. The door in front of her began to open, she sprang into the corner of the room as the door closed, trapping herself between the closing door and the corner of the room. She became entirely enclosed behind the open door. Light flooded the whole room and she couldn’t help squinting at what little she could see. She was poised on the balls of her feet, her heels wedged against the wall. She didn’t dare breathe. There was barely enough space to hide her, to the extent that her face was turned into the corner so her nose didn’t touch the door. Looking out of the corner of her eye she could see through the gap between the wall and the door made by the hinge of the door. Glancing down her body she could see a seam of light running down her, dividing her in two. At first through this gap she could see only a sliver of a featureless painted brick wall, then the man who had opened the door took a step backwards.

He had a hairy neck, or so it seemed, a longer examination revealed he had such an enormous amount of chest hair it escaped over the top of his collar and tickled his chin. His ear resembled yesterday’s sat-upon Yorkshire pudding. His chin jutted out so far that his mouth was open even when his face was at rest, if he stood in the rain for too long he would have a mouth full of water. His lower lip was large and curled outwards causing him to reveal a row of yellow teeth that wherever possible overlapped and jostled for position. His top lip nestled behind these teeth making you wonder how he ever ate without chewing his top lip clean off.
“Oi, come aff a luke at dis” he was staring at the ground shortly in front of him. Another man got up and sauntered over.
“Where’d ‘e go?” Said the other man accusatorily.
“I don’t bloody know, she just vanished.” The barefoot belligerent then realised, they must be staring at a pair of empty shoes. To get a better look both men took an almost perfectly synchronized step forwards.
“Wot we gonna tell Sarge?” Said the first big-lipped guard.
Silently, using every inch of space, the prisoner brought her right knee up to above her waist, her foot and calf pointed towards the floor. She twisted and lifted her foot so the sole was flush with the door. Making two fists she braced against the wall behind her and with enormous force pushed the door towards the guards in the doorway. Having been leant forward slightly, the door slammed against the forehead (and protruding lip) of the first guard knocking him out. He twisted as he fell and with the combined momentum of the closing door brought down the other guard with him, pinning him to the floor with his not unsubstantial heft. As he fell he made a gurgling yelp that abruptly stopped when he hit the ground hard, he too was now unconscious.
The door bounced back off the frame and shuddered towards the slightly-less-captive captive, she steadied it with outstretched hands and crept round to examine the damage.
Oh dear she thought.

She took an almost comically large step to get over the two KO-ed guards and properly entered the largely empty room. There was nothing but two stools and an upturned bucket which had the makings of a game of cards on it. The room didn’t have a door but instead an opening to a lit corridor. Tentatively she stuck her head out into the corridor and looked left and then right and then left again. She didn’t see anything and only heard a low mechanical hum that sounded far off. She retracted her head from the corridor and thought for a moment. She didn’t know what was going on but she wasn’t panicked. Alert and alive, surprisingly so, having just woken up. She took a few small steps into the room so she was out of sight of the corridor. She began searching herself, starting at her ankles, she pat herself down for anything unusual and to establish what is usual. When she got to her hips she found that her trousers had side pockets. The left one had been sown up, and it felt that at some point so had the right one, but the stitching had been unpicked at one end. There was only enough room to get one finger in really, she pulled at the stitching and prised the two sides apart until she could fit a couple of digits the whole way into the pocket. There was something in there, a single slip of paper. She pinched it as best she could between her index and middle fingers and pulled it out of her pocket. The paper was very thin and rectangular, one of the sides had been torn roughly and it had been folded once down the middle of its longest side. There was nothing on one side but on the other side a single word, handwritten. What was written was ‘UNRES↑’ for all intents and purposes it said UNREST but the T looked more like an upward-pointing arrow. She stared at the paper and couldn’t help but think it was supposed to be more significant than she immediately found it. Getting nowhere she stuffed it back in the same pocket, jamming it in with her thumb.

Quickly glancing back at the guards to check they were still out cold she went out of the room and turned left. Having no shoes on and being trim and nimble meant she moved almost silently. She wondered if she had acted a tad rashly back there, knocking out those men unprovoked. She felt it wasn’t like her, but didn’t really know what she was like, she was having some trouble making sense of anything. She quickly rationalized that you should never put too much trust in people who refer to you as ‘the prisoner’ and concluded it was probably the best course of action. Come to think of it she didn’t know how she should be referred to, what was her name? Her lips began making shapes as if trying to remember her name by muscle memory. She squinted and scrunched up her face in concentration, she knew she knew it, it just wasn’t coming. As she walked she had been passing openings on her left that lead into room much like the one she was just in. None of the half dozen she had passed so far had anyone in. As she approached the seventh or eighth she saw ahead of her in the corridor an open door with two guards standing on the other side of it, she checked the nearest room and finding it empty ducked into it to form a plan. Maybe it was time to adopt a more friendly attitude, she can’t knock out everyone she meets, she’ll get nowhere. Partly to check if she still could and partly as a rehearsal she said as quietly as she could, “excuse me”. Her voice was course and patchy, and what actually came out sounded more like ‘Suzy’. Deciding she needed a name, and although she knew Suzy not to be her actual name, she adopted it. If anyone should ask: she was Suzy. Remembering the slip of paper she grasped at where it was in her pocket, the paper was very thin but so where her trousers and it quietly crunched confirming its existence. Suzy found this oddly comforting. Everything since she had woken up had been an unknown. She didn’t know where she was, who she was or what was going on, but this unknown piece of paper was HER unknown piece of paper. She decided that however friendly she had just decided to be, she should keep the paper secret.

She was almost ready to approach the guards, she reckoned she would do her best damsel-in-distress act and she what she could gleam, when she heard a rumbling. The rumbling got louder and became more distinct. Each new rumble starting quickly after the last. There was also some shouting and the rumbling was getting louder, no, not louder, nearer. Footsteps. Loud thumping footsteps. Standing up straight she went back out into the corridor and looked left towards the open door and the source of the approaching footsteps.
“SHUT THAT DOOR” she couldn’t see much on the other side of the door, she couldn’t see who had shouted that. The two guards frantically began closing the door. The footsteps, clearly belonging to someone in both full sprint and large boots, had reached their loudest when they stopped. For just a moment there was a deafening silence. The two men had almost got the door closed when they were both bowled backwards into Suzy’s potion of the corridor followed by a scurfy man who collapsed on top of them. The door they had been trying to close flew open again and slammed against the wall making the ground wobble. Suzy quickly realised that the young man who had thrown himself at the door was in the same dark taupe top and lightweight grey trousers as Suzy. Maybe it was his likewise unfortunate fashion habits or maybe it was his clear hopelessness but Suzy felt an immediate connection. She took a few tentative steps forwards, she hadn’t decided why yet. A giant of a man loomed over the toppled trio and made it so he couldn’t get up. He laughed like gravel in a washing machine over a loudhailer.
“Well I never, it bloody works!” He laughed again until it trailed off into a sigh. He took a deep breath in and looked up considering what to do next. He locked eyes with Suzy. His face changed from one of elated relief to a look that could shatter light bulbs from thirty paces.
“What the bloody ‘ell- GET ‘ER!” Suzy turned to run and came nose to lip with a man who had an exceedingly large bruise on his forehead, not a lot of patience and a truncheon. He hit Suzy hard, she went down. Everything went dark.

Chapter 1

His mouth felt rusted shut. His sandpaper tongue tasted the metal tang of blood on his cracked lips. One thing is for certain he thought, this isn’t what he expected. Sliding his back up the wall he had been leaning on he got to his feet, his boots clanked on the metal floor of what appeared to be a cell. His feet were numb. The only light came from a horizontal slit three quarters of the way up the door on the opposite side of the square room. Taking a step towards the door caused him to topple forwards and he slammed his hands against the door resulting in a loud slam.
“Hey!” A voice came from outside the cell,
“Is he awake?” A second lower voice asked.
“I heard summin.” Chair legs scraped the ground. Standing up straight still with his hands on the door of the cell he peered out through the gap in the door. To his surprise his gaze was met by a rectangular sample of a man’s face, eyes framed by the door peering back at him. So startled he fell backwards, his back colliding with the wall and he sank to the floor, the base of his spine sending a sudden shudder up to his head. He let out a small groan.
“He’s awake alright” the lower voice said,
“Okay. I’ll radio sarge.” There was a click and a radio crackled into operation.

A key turned in the lock of the door. The cell filled with a dull artificial light made dimmer by the shadow of a short bald man with no neck. His arms stuck out from his sides and hung stiffly off his marsupial shoulders. An ape like arm grabbed the prisoner and pulled him to his feet, grasping a shoulder he span him so his chin grazed the wall and handcuffed the detainee’s arms behind his back. Not a word was exchanged. They marched over to a black metal chair and table that were both fastened to the floor, the prisoner was sat in the chair and handcuffs re-administered so he was now shackled to the table. The bald man walked to a wooden chair, swung it around and sat in it, staring menacingly at his captive.

He had a chance to recuperate now, although he was finding it difficult. His mind was a thick slurry of blurred recollections but questions about his current situation overshadowed them. He looked at around for any feelings of familiarity. There were no windows in the room. It looked like it has been designed by three different minimalists. The black metal chair and table sat on an unpainted concrete floor, there were wooden chairs and tables over in the opposite corner. The room was ruthlessly pragmatic, unpainted pipes and uncovered wires snaked the walls and ceiling a low rumbling seemed to come out of a vent in the wall. He started to say, “What happ-”
“NO TALKING.” The up-till-now silent, egg-headed grunt sat up and stamped a foot on the floor. Silence ensued.

After a short while the prisoner realised he had been staring at his hands, turning them over and examining the fine details. Nails and creases, discolorations and blemishes tiny scars that were mostly faded but seemed somehow new. They were certainly his hands, but he hardly recognized them. The room didn’t have a door there was an opening to a hallway on the wall opposite the cell. Two men then filled doorway, one following the other at his shoulder. “Is this the first one to wake up?” Said the moustached man in front.

“Yes sir.” the man behind sheepishly looked up at the other. He looked like he thought something was all his fault. The taller man whose moustache lurked beneath a bulbous nose took a step towards the table the prisoner was sat at. His eyes bore into the prisoner’s skull, boiling his brain with a stare. The skinny man over his left shoulder leaned forward and slid a beige folder onto the table it read ‘SETH 0841-001′.
“The first one” each word fell off the end of his tongue like they didn’t want to leave his mouth, “how… appropriate.”

For the first time since he entered the room he broke his steely glare and walked over to the bald man who abruptly stood up and to attention. They mumbled a few words between themselves. Seth, it seemed distinctly familiar, not the same obvious familiarity carried by your own name, more like a nickname you had a few years ago but didn’t really like. He wasn’t sure but the prisoner assumed this file must be his. When he thought no one was paying him any attention he crept a finger across the table towards the document. “Well” in one fluid movement the man known so far only as Sir hooked his foot around the leg of the wooden chair the bald man had been sat on and sent it skidding, skittering and spinning across the stone floor. He span on the heel of his other foot and came clattering down into the chair exactly opposite Seth, stopping it instantly. A profound silence followed. Seth had stuffed both of his hands back into his lap, he thought he must look extremely guilty. “Well” said the man again, he kicked a leg up into the air and it came down with some force on the table with a clunk. He slung the other leg over it and leant on the back two legs of his chair. “I am Staff Sergeant Warwick Bradshaw but you can call me, Sir” a few yellow teeth emerged in the corner of his mouth, it looked like a smile trying to escape. “Do you know who you are?” Seth’s expression of blank bafflement didn’t change, his lip quivered and mustered a small whimper. “Well?” The Sergeant said for a third time.
“I’m not sure- Seth?” Seth said uncertainly. The Sergeant glanced over at the file and let out a short single laugh, he slid his feet off of the table and sat forward.
“Seth. I suppose that will do.” He looked into Seth’s eyes like he knew he was being lied to. Even though Seth hadn’t really said anything he still felt guilty.

Trying to recall anything up to this point had been as clear as watching static through a heavy fog. The Sergeant inhaled deeply then pushed the air back out through near closed lips causing his cheeks to inflate and making a rushing noise. Seth felt the humid air across his face. Warwick scrunched up his face staring at Seth like he was trying to see an optical illusion printed on his face.
“Take his cuffs off.” The Sergeant barked out of one side if his mouth. Startled the bald man, who had been leaning on the wall, came over and decuffed Seth. The Sergeant got to his feet and pulled up his trousers, although they were high enough, it seemed more out if habit and they quickly sunk back to where they were. “On your feet.” Seth, rubbing his wrists where the cuffs had been got up.

THWACK there was a noise like a Christmas turkey hitting the pavement after being hurled out of a 3 storey window. The Sergeants’ clenched fist was in Seth’s hand and he had skidded back a few inches. It appears the sergeant had tried to punch Seth. Before Seth could think, comprehend or ask what just happened the Sergeant pulled his fist away, crouched and swept a leg towards Seth’s ankles. Without blinking Seth placed a hand on the top of the Sergeants head and cartwheeled over the top of him, avoiding the kick. He then found himself face-to-face with the bald man, who wound back in order to head-butt Seth. Seth, like some kind of lizard bent his body in such a way that the bald man, propelling himself toward with the force of his entire body, entirely missed Seth and began to stumble forward. Tactically Seth, although partially unintentionally, stuck a leg out to trip the man as he stumbled. He then began to fall. The Sergeant, who had barely turned around by this point, did not get out of the way and the two men collided dramatically with each other and the floor. Flipping the bald men off of him the Sergeant hurriedly got up from the floor, he had a look on his face like a gorilla who had just been called a monkey for the last time. Seth however was doing his best rabbit in the headlights expression. He ran. Barging through the third man in the room Seth headed into the hallway, bouncing off the wall he ran right out of the room. The corridor in front of him seemed endless due to the fact it listed off to the right, he up to a full sprint very quickly. To his right were lots of rooms that a passing glance looked identical to the ones he had just come out of. Behind him he could hear commotion that was presumably the Sergeant hot on his heels. As he continued around the seemingly endless corner he saw two men in the same get up as the Sergeant and company in front of a bulky door not really having a plan Seth continued forward, he was quick and light on his feet. “SHUT THAT DOOR” the Sergeant who was now also in view of the door bellowed over his shoulder. The two men began working together to pull the door towards them. Seth reckoned he could make it. He stooped forward and prepared to twist his body through the closing door just before it shut. He switched from a sprint into a sort of half-sidestep and then he trod on the lace of his undone boot. His left foot, now pinned to the ground by his right foot, attempted to take off on its next step and failed. His entire body began to pivot about the pinned laces and Seth stuck his arms out. He crashed monumentally into the two men and all three of them toppled through the almost closed door causing it to swing open with alarming force. It wanged the wall on the other side of the door so hard the door shook like a gong.

Seth, fuzzy-headed pushed himself up onto all fours. He became aware of large thumping footsteps getting closer and closer until they stopped, the Sergeant came crashing down on top of the three men, flattening Seth back onto his stomach. The Sergeant got quickly up his shiny black boots one on either side of Seth, the other two men had crawled out of the way and were trying to work out what had just happened. Seth turned over certain something bad was about to happen. The Sergeant began to laugh. Not just laugh, he bellowed a loud booming laugh that came right from hit gut. He has his fists clenched and on his hips so he looked like a robust two handled mug. “Well I never!” He projected at no one really, “It bloody works.”