By Emery J Gallant
The smell of ozone filled the air.
It was the first thing I noticed when my head started to clear, as I lay in a cold puddle in the street. I couldn’t tell you why I was lying in a cold puddle, in a dank alley, late at night. All I could tell you is, my head hurt like hell, and my stomach was roiling like I was punched repeatedly in the gut. But slowly, I felt my senses coming back into focus.
As I slowly push myself up to kneel, unsteadily on one knee, I reach up reflexively to the side of my head. My fingertips gently explore a gash that has begun to clot blood, which explains the groggy head. My hands aren’t much better, scraped raw from who knows what. It’s in that moment I come realize that my memory is a blank as to how I came to be in such a state. Slight panic courses through me, but I shake it off as I try to re-group.
Slowly rising to my feet, my gaze wonders to my surroundings; a dark alley in a city, apparently late at night. A couple abandoned cars hug the brick walls of some unknown building and steam rises into the cold night air from the manhole up ahead. The sound of sirens in the distance, and light traffic signify the night moving on around me, but I have no idea where I am. My shuffling feet echo off the walls, as I start to make my way towards the nearest populated street.
Looking down at my clothes, I realize I’m wearing a black tactical vest, with BOSTON POLICE emblazoned on the chest in bold, yellow letters. Beneath appears to be a black shirt with tattered spots on the arms, and cargo fatigues. I’ve a holstered weapon at my side.
A cop. That’s right, a cop, my memory flashes!
"I’m a BPD cop", I whisper hoarsely.
I’m a mess. Whatever happened to me. I think to myself that, I hope the other guy came out worse! I look and feel like I’ve been through battle, and I came out the worse for it. A rat runs by a dumpster, bumping a rusty can noisily on the wet tar and my hand immediately moves to my sidearm, as I make sure it’s only a rat keeping me company.
“Devlin! Jesus, where did you come from?”
A woman in BPD fatigues stands at the end of the alley, appearing out of nowhere. My hand stays on my sidearm and I flick the snap on the retention strap with my thumb. Walking cautiously towards me after seeing my confused reaction, her face materializes in the low light of the alley, and recognition dawns on me of a fellow officer from my Unit.
“Dispatch just said you were in TransDyne. I was heading over there to back you up. What the Hell are you doing in this alley? And what in God’s name happened to you?”
I stare at this woman, and I can feel my memory popping back in my wounded skull. “Jess? Your name is Jess, right?” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I feel like an idiot. Of course it was Jess. She’s been stationed in the Unit as long as I had.
And at the mention of ‘TransDyne’, it all came rushing back into my head like a freight train.
* * *
Mr. X. What else could you call this mystery man?
Caught inside MIT after hours by Campus Police, Mr. X somehow stunned them with some kind of unknown weapon, and made off with pieces of high-tech components from their quantum physics research lab. That’s when I was called into duty and was on the chase.
“The perp was spotted breaking into TransDyne industries”, Jess said. “I was dispatched to the scene and thought I was the first to arrive, when I then saw you!” I couldn’t help but smile at her eagerness. It’s going to get her into trouble one day.
“OK, let’s go”, I say as we turn and run out of the alley into the street ahead. TransDyne Industries was just a block up ahead and at full sprint, we bolt through the broken, glass door and into the lobby with guns drawn. The sirens I’d heard in the distance, upon waking just minutes ago were making their way towards us. The cavalry! Everything was happening so fast.
A klaxon blares inside the building and the campus cops are just shaking off the grogginess of being attacked. A quick check by Jess reveals they are recovering. Running up to one of the desk surveillance monitors, I’m lucky and am able to run the camera footage back. I see Mr. X screaming at the campus security personnel, a strange looking weapon held at them, and being forcing them to divulge where Lab 42 was. Switching my attention to a book with a directory, I quickly spot the location of the lab and call for Jess to follow.
Running down the main corridor leading to the lab, we run into an uninjured campus cop, who relaxes as soon as he see’s out vests. “We need to get to Lab 42”, I bark.
“Heading there now…the rest of Campus Security is there and trying to gain access to the lab. Some nut-job locked himself in”, the guard explains.
Reaching the entrance to the lab, we were greeted by the sight of six campus cops at the entrance to the lab. One of them was sitting cross-legged on the floor with a laptop in his lap, furiously punching at the keypad; wires leading up from it to alligator clipped leads in a ripped-off control panel on the wall next to the glass doors.
“Why aren’t you smashing through the glass?”
One of the cops looks, in complete annoyance at me, and explains that the doors are shatter and bullet proof. The only way in is in the hands of the tech on the floor. Peering around him, I look through the doors, to see Mr. X at some giant metal ring with tubes and wires coming out of it from all angles. He is installing some components into a station by the ring, and looking nervously our way now and then. Harried and sweating, he looks desperate. Like a caged animal.
Suddenly, a flash lights up the lab and the ring’s center comes to life, glowing with a reflective brilliance that looked like swirling water. It was accompanied by a loud motor-like sound as some kind of enormous power supply obviously kicks in.
“What the Hell is that thing!!!” I screamed.
Mr. X smiles, wiping his forehead of sweat, and is just beginning to stand when the tech on the floor screams, “I got it!”
The doors to the lab hiss and begin to open, when I hear a familiar sound from my military days; a high pitched electronic, spooling whine. Instinctively, I dive at Jess to push her to the ground before the bomb goes off, but I’m too far away to get us both out of the way of the blast in time. The concussion tosses me to the ground, battered and bruised. We’d walked into a bobby trap.
As I slowly rise, I peer into the lab as I raise my weapon. I could tell the effects were minimal on Mr. X, as he too rose, and dusted himself off. He swung his attention to me, in horror that he still had an obstacle to what he was trying to do, and he was immediately running around a desk that had blown in his path. I realize quickly that he intends to jump into the ring!
Running through the door, I order him to freeze. He is almost to the ring, when ductwork from the ceiling crashes down between us. Having lost line of sight to my target, and knowing he was about to jump through, I act on pure adrenaline and shoot at the panel where he’d installed the stolen tech. Sparks fly from the mass of components, but too late to stop him as he disappeared just before my bullets hit home.
I could tell the machine was about to die, and the pool of light in the rings’ center was just starting to break up. Without thinking it through, I sprint through the ring after him.
The smell of ozone filled the air.
It was the first thing I noticed when my head started to clear, as I lay in a cold puddle in the street.
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