It is only after the hologram goes off and the darkness seeps in that I realized they called my number, but I’m too late. A bright white light starts to flash repeatedly and as I look around, the other players are as confused as I am, this has never happened before. I see the Sentais slithering down from the Pioneer above to collect three others like me. And as if timed perfectly, the lights stop flashing and the darkness arrives. Pure terror surges through my veins, like icy daggers straight to my heart. The fear I felt when leaving Eros V behind is nothing compared to how I feel now. I look up and see the claw of the Sentai right in front of me, if I intended to escape, all hope is lost now, I’m as good as dead. I feel the stinging pain of the Sentai grab me and carry me up into the aircraft above, then all goes black.
In a flash of shock and dread, I twitch awake, finding myself in a fluorescent type liquid, shielded by a glass visor covering the tub I’m in. After the disorientation drops to a bearable level, I hear voices – distorted by fluid.
“She isn’t supposed to be awake . . . not yet. Someone get to work on that.”
Trying to free myself gets me nowhere, though the movement leads to the painful discovery of several tubes, coursing with an azure substance, probably the toxins, all inserted beneath my skin. At first, the feeling is more distant, yet as soon as I make another slight motion, I can feel the piercing objects sharply scraping against bone. Fighting against the urge to scream, I see a dark figure approach me and hands are suddenly placed against the screen of the glass. The glass visor opens, allowing me to inhale a much-needed breath.
“Krieva, we have to go. We have to leave now if you want to survive.” It’s Thaddeus and he is soaking wet, covered from head to toe in what appears to be the same substance I am emerged in. He must have escaped, but how.
“Krieva, did you hear me?” This time, his voice is more urgent. It’s as if he is trying to avoid something but for whatever the reason, I can’t bring myself to answer him, my body isn’t obeying my commands.
“Shit, we need to leave now. I’ll have to carry you out, you’re not going to regain your senses back for quite a bit of time. Sorry, but this will hurt.” Removing the wires connected to me, he puts his hand into my tub and carries me out before walking us to what I presume to be the exit. As I look around, I notice that we are surrounded by rows upon rows of what seems to be large tubes filled with players. Where the hell am I?
“Krieva, I know you cant speak at the moment but we need to escape if we have any chance of living. For some reason, I was able to gain consciousness without being detected, probably due to a system malfunction, mostly likely caused by the flashing lights that we were projected to us earlier.” Wait. What does he mean by projected, we were there.
“I found out that what I was saying before was true. Don’t believe anything that they tell you Krieva. Everyone that has ever been in the platform is alive and I know that this might be confusing but the truth is that they never left in the first place. Once we agreed to become players were put into a tube but once they connect wiring into your system, they have the ability to project and show images to you mind, as if you are actually living through what they want you to see. This way, players can be brought out of New Xena and the rich can watch them suffer but they never loose players, only new ones are added.” I clear my throat as my body starts to gain a bit of control back.
“Good, you’re coming out of the toxins. Once you can move, we’ll need to bolt for it because they will notice that were gone in no time. My aim right now is to get us out of the main headquarters, I saw a map of the building earlier on. I’m pretty sure after these doors are a stairway downstairs.”
Just as Thaddeus opened the door, a creature appeared before us, seemingly to have come through the door that is in front of us. It was more like a shadow than a physical being – lightly resembling humans-shape wise, but only black smoke. Each form rippled whenever it moved like disturbed water. The only way I knew it was looking at us was the white eyes with a slight blue hue that stood out against the darkness.
“Uhhh, Thaddeus, we should probably run.” As soon as the words left my mouth, the alien lunged at us but we managed to dodge to the side and behind it towards the fire escape.
“You should be able to move now, I won’t be fast enough if I’m carrying you,” Thaddeus drops me on the floor and grabs my hand for us to continue running. “Come on, let’s go!” he says.
When my mind has ceased its unproductive buzz, I am able to start thinking my way out of this mess. I start of slow so that I don’t lose my balance but then once I look behind me and notice that there are now two creatures following us out, I run full force. I see Thaddeus in front of me as he makes his way through the escape doors and holds it open for me to run through it, urging me to run faster. As I approach the exit, my feet slip and I almost tumble over, time I cannot afford. Running through the door was not as satisfactory as it should have been. I was met with intense heat rushing towards me, wave after wave of sand rolling onto my already sweat stained skin, making the sand stick. Thaddeus and I know that if the creatures’ mange to leave the building, there is no hope for us as we don’t know where we are. As I turn and look back onto the door I just ran through, one of the creatures follow after me but is immediately turned to ashes by the intense heat. The other waits by the door before slowly turning back and leaving the way it came.
Thaddeus and I both look at each other now, he is drenched from head to toe in sweat, making his already browned skin appear even darker. He give me a reassuring smile, just like the one I gave Erlyn, before using his forearm to wipe the sweat off of his forehead. We know that this isn’t the end, there is still so much that we don’t know but what’s important is that we are alive and that we will do what we possibly can to stop whatever is happening inside that building.