Clarion: Prologue

Copyright © 2017
Nathan M. Hurst

Waking was not always the best option in life. From the comfortable oblivion that had been his slumber, he found his eyes complaining about an intense brightness searing through his eyelids, a pink and orange which also felt like it was melting his face with the heat of it. He tried to raise his hands but found he couldn’t move them: restrained at the wrists. He tried several more times with increasing levels of force and anxiety. His feet seemed to be equally restrained and there was also a wide band around his chest, which clamped him tight to the couch he was laying on. Someone didn’t want him moving.

Slowly opening his eyes a crack to try and get an idea of his situation, a lance of white light worked across them. Squinting into the brightness, he tried to look around for somewhere in the room that might have a light source less intense than a supernova, but it seemed like he was surrounded. He was surprised that he could move his head. With the rest of his body restrained, he wondered why they had left his head free to look around.

Memories started to come back to him. The last thing he remembered was being carried through the hatch of a maintenance airlock, manhandled by a security team down to the brig. But this wasn't the brig.

They had been sneaky and duped him; he should have listened to his instincts but he was just too curious to let it go. When a new nav trace had appeared in his bio-comms, he had instantly believed it to be a glitch, but when it started moving with him and tempting him to take a different path away from the safety of the others and his base camp he got curious. It had crossed his mind that it might be a trap, but how could they have found them? There was no indication, they had not given themselves away; they had been very careful. So very careful. The lure had been too much for his curiosity to handle, and he had stepped off the task he was doing to follow the new nav track.

Going a little further than he had wanted, the track had come to a sudden end in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. He could see nothing in any direction in between the double skin of the hull. He had been running dark, as was the current team protocol, so seeing nothing was pretty normal, but he had then realised he was way off course. If his team had needed to find him or mount a rescue, he wouldn't have been on any of the tracks he was meant to have been travelling; he would have been truly lost. He had been seriously thinking of breaking protocol and putting his torch on to light the area and get some very much needed information on his surroundings. Mentally, he had kicked himself for being so nosey. Had he really needed to take this track? No. He should have just stayed the course and reported it. They may have been able to do something together later; better than wandering off on your own. He had turned to head back.

That's when they had stunned him and locked out his suit. When he had been contacted by the person he now knew to be St John, Endeavour's head of security, St John had been acting a part, colluding with him to warn him of danger. But it was more a probe for information and a delaying tactic to allow the security team time to get to him before he could do anything to escape.

It had worked. He was furious with himself and had stayed tight-lipped and unbending in the face of all their questioning. They had beaten him, they had drugged him, they had questioned him relentlessly without the chance for rest or sleep. He had fallen back on his training and told them little bits here and there to keep himself alive, nothing more, and nothing more than they already knew. He smiled at himself. He took his successes where he could.

They had reminded him that his resistance was irrelevant, as if they didn't get what they wanted they could simply clone him and start again. It would seem like an eternity of torture. This was inconceivable, but he knew they didn't have the time for that—it was a bluff. They couldn't wait twenty years for a clone to mature in order to continue an investigation they needed answers to now. A bluff. But within moments of their bluff he had been drugged and put to sleep.

Getting a sense of his surroundings was difficult: the light was too intense, too bright. Even squinting as he was, his eyes were watering with the effort and heat, in itself adding to the problem. He simply couldn't see anything to his front; it was like looking into the sun. To his right he could see a little, although it was completely washed of all colour, everything taking on a stark whiteness that seemed sterile. He could just about make out the body of another, reclined and asleep. Raising his head and fighting the restraints, he managed to see over the body to find that they were not alone. Looking to his left, he found the same: a line of people reclined and asleep in the face of this terrible brightness. Nothing was making sense. Who were all these people and why were they here? Why was he here? Didn't they need to finish their questioning?

A jab to his wrist from the restraining cuff made him grimace and yell out; it was both unexpected and extremely painful. He felt liquid being pumped into his vein and a heat start to spread through him as the injected substance made its way slowly, inevitably, around his body, each heartbeat pushing the heat further and further on in waves. With the temperature from the blinding lights and now this increase of his core temperature due to the injected substance, he started to become almost delirious. The world around him was becoming more and more distant, and his ability to concentrate and follow any thoughts or ideas to a meaningful conclusion fell to be almost zero. It was worse than being drunk; his mind being this addled left him numb and without focus or reason, his sense of self drifting and out of reach.

Looking to the side, he tried to concentrate on something he could see, to give himself something to grip onto in the physical world. The person next to him was still laying inert, eyes closed, but now with a heavy sheen of sweat over his naked form. Whatever had been administered to him had clearly also been given to all the others. Within a few moments the skin on the body started to quiver, like the muscles were in spasm just below the surface. Shortly after this, the picture became streaked with black as the skin began to lose cohesion. Within seconds, the body next to him liquefied completely, splashing to the grated floor and leaving nothing—not even the more solid skeletal structure of the body remained. It all slid from the couch in a dark, black river of death.

His eyes were wide and burning dry in the deathly environment. Snapping his head around to look to his left, there were already many couches now empty, only a residue of black to indicate where a body had once been. There were fewer and fewer in the room. His heart was racing and a noise filled his head, resonating around the room. He realised he was screaming, for himself and for the dead. His throat ruptured and sprayed black blood down his chest, the scream now replaced by a quiet rasping sound. He flopped back on the couch exhausted; suddenly overcome by a complete lack of energy, his fight went away.

The temperature in his body seemed to reverse as a paralysis took hold. In his last moments, his eyes flooded with tears just before he passed into unconsciousness. It came as a relief.