The truck stopped outside a two story warehouse. The second floor was entirely glass, while the first floor was made of cinderblock. Nyko looked around as he was shoved out of the truck, and roughly shoved in the door. The lights came up on a stark white room, with a single desk at the far side, covered in Plexiglas.
The door closed behind Nyko and Andy, leaving them alone in the room. There were no chairs and no place to sit. Where the door had been was now the tiniest crack. Both men felt their ears pop when the door closed.
Andy shifted his weight nervously from foot to foot, but Nyko didn’t move, and Andy wasn’t going to break the silence. After several minutes, a woman clad in what looked like white military fatigues stepped into the booth at the back of the room and beckoned them forward. Nyko walked up to the window and stood with his feet spread and his hands clasped behind his back.
“Disrobe. Leave your clothes on the floor, and place your hands in the blue circles.”
“What blue circles?” Nyko asked.
She nodded over his shoulder, as two neon blue circles lit up on the wall.
“We’re not staying,” he said. “We’ll just make our way out.”
“Unauthorized personnel must be decontaminated before being sent to quarantine.”
“Whoa, whoa. There’s been some kind of fucking mistake here. We’re not going to god damn quarantine, we’re not fucking staying here. Just open that fucking door back there and we’ll leave.” Nyko paused for a moment, and then, as if it had just occurred to him, added, “Peacefully.”
“Violence will not be tolerated. Disrobe for decontamination.” Her face never changed. She showed almost no hint of emotion, outside of a small tick of her upper lip in frustration.
Nyko put his hands on the plexiglass. “Listen honey. We’re getting the fuck out of here. Open the god damn door.”
She leaned in slightly closer. “Disrobe. You have thirty seconds to start. She looked down at a button on the desk, and grinned ever so slightly as she moved her hand over it.
“Fuck you,” Nyko said.
“Your choice,” she said. Perhaps the only time she broke from the script. She pushed the red button. Nyko’s ears popped again as gas began to flood the room. In seconds, his vision began to blur, and then narrowed down, like he was looking through a long tunnel. Less than a minute later, he felt like he was falling.
“Hey y’all, I think he’s wakin’ up.”
The room slowly stopped spinning around Nyko, who realized his eyes were closed. His head felt like someone was hammering railroad spikes into his temples. Nyko opened his eyes. Soft white light came from everywhere. The ceiling and walls seemed to glow, driving icepicks into his head.
His crew was all sitting on the floor around him. He turned his head slightly to see Andy, dressed in white fatigues just like everyone else. He patted his side, his gun was missing. He patted his chest, the knife that hung from a lanyard under his shirt was gone.
He croaked, “Did they leave us anything?”
Brian held his hands up with his fingers splayed. “Even cut my nails off, Boss.”
“Fuck. Did they gas you too?”
“We think they shot us with darts at the station. Jonas found the spot on his arm where they got him,” said Terrell. I was carrying a bunch of iron tubing to help Jonas. Then I woke up here. Tubes must have fallen on me, my arm is pretty beat, and I think I have a broken rib.
Andy groaned and rolled over on his side. “Derrick, see to Andy. Jonas, what do you know?”
“I saw some spaceman looking guy in the parking lot. I turned to call out to the boys and went down.”
Nyko looked at his friend. He was wearing the same white fatigues as the rest. On closer inspection, there was a slight grey digital pattern in the fabric. “How long have you been here?”
“Maybe ten minutes before they dumped you in here. They came from the middle of that wall. Door appeared, they dumped you and Andy, and closed. We were all pretty disoriented still, but they were in and out before we had a chance to even move.”
Andy was up, sitting with his head tucked between his knees. “What the fuck was that shit?”
“We know there are at least two of them. They’re going to come for us eventually. They have gas that knocked us out immediately, and based on the feeling of delousing powder on my balls and the fact that my fingernails are not only trimmed but filed smooth means we were out for a while. Jonas’ boots are tailored for him. Look how they built the platform up.”
“Best pair of boots I’ve owned in a while. Even when I had a cobbler he took a couple days to fix up my boots.” Jonas walked across the room, showing off his new boots.
Brian spoke up. “They took good fuckin’ care of us. Why would they give us new duds, make J-man some new boots and clean us up if they were just gonna kill us?”
“I hope you’re right, brother,” replied Nyko. “All we can fucking do now is wait the sons of bitches out.”
As if on command, the door opened. Four men walked in, and stopped standing in a tight group. Nyko stood quickly. His five men lined up behind him.
All four were wearing full helmets, a larger version of the mask Andy tried on. Solid white face masks, with a blacked out visor. A single crease in the facemask ran vertically from forehead to chin. “The leader of this group will step forward,” one of them said.
Nyko stepped up. “The fuck do you want with us?”
“You are from Las Vegas?”
“Yes,” Nyko said. He’d told them that much.
“How many survivors live in Las Vegas?”
“I don’t fucking know the answer to that,” said Nyko.
“Maybe a hundred? Hundred and fucking fifty?” Nyko said.
“The temperature of your face just rose three degrees. It is imperative that you are truthful.”
“I run a god damn bar. I don’t get out much. I have about a hundred fifty fucking regulars. I have no way to estimate the population of god damn Las Vegas.”
“Then you are no use. A meal will be delivered in an hour. Quarantine will be complete in twenty hours.”
The four men spun and walked out. The sliding door sealed behind them.
They sat in a circle, idly chatting, killing time until the door opened from the bottom and six trays were slipped under the door. The food came in a bowl and tasted like some kind of grain mixed with water. “We have twenty hours. Get some sleep,” Nyko ordered. “We all feel like shit. Gonna need the crew in top form if we’re going to get out of this fucking mess.”
Nyko stretched out on his back, hands under his head and closed his eyes. He didn’t sleep, but he laid there trying to look like he was. Instead he spent the next twenty hours thinking about Charlotte and wondering how his bar was. For the moment the urge to travel was gone, he just wanted to be home in his bar.
The time passed agonizingly slow. Most of the crew slept for several hours on the cool, hard floor, but even though it was relatively warm in the room, it got cold very quickly. Nearly everyone got up to do jumping jacks, pushups, or some other sort of exercise to increase their core temperatures at some point during what Nyko assumed was the night.
There was no way to know the passage of time. Andy tapped the music in his head out on his thigh, making no noise. Jonas paced, breaking in his new boots. Derrick lost himself in daydreams, thinking about anything other than where they were.
If you like Sci-Fi, I hope you’ll check out The Evolution of Vaughn, available for your Amazon Kindle.