The ledge was raw rock, it had an irregular edge that cut into Daniel's fingers and made it barely possible to keep gripping, and it wasn't big enough to do anything with except holding on. Daniel swung her legs looking for purchase, and felt something. She shifted her weight onto her feet. The lower shelf was big enough to stand on, nothing else, but that was enough. She breathed out and felt the pain draining from her numb fingers.
Voices rose from below. They sounded angry, but they weren't speaking to her, so she didn't have to listen. She gazed up into the heavier dusk, squinting to see. There was one other foothold, two. They were way higher than a normal person could jump, and maybe too high for her as well. She could have jumped back down, just so she wouldn't have to go through all this, but what was down there was worse.
One of them, the woman maybe, snapped an order, and Daniel jumped as if that was her cue. She made it to the ledge and looked upward for the next. The adrenaline had filled her until she felt like she'd be able to make it all the way up without resting.
“This is your final warning,” she heard the female voice. It sounded sure of itself, as if they'd already caught her. “Come down willingly, and you will not be punished.”
“And you think I'll fall for that?” she called. Her new voice still freaked her out.
She didn't wait, but crouched and readied herself. The next foothold was almost straight up, but she could still pull it off.
She jumped, but in mid-jump it felt like her course was slow and off-balance. She looked down and saw a light plastic dart sticking to her thigh, through her pale stocking. For a moment all she could think was how neat it looked, how you couldn't tell that the silk was broken around the needle. Blurriness was rising into her head.
She fell and was unconscious before she landed.
“Open your eyes, Guide.”
Daniel obeyed. She was lying on her back on something that wasn't as sinkingly soft as the canopy bed, but still soft enough to be comfy. There was a white roof and white walls around her, lit so bright they burnt shadows into her eyes after a while. It was only when she moved that she felt something holding her limbs down.
“We needed to do something with you to ensure that you don't try to defy us again,” the voice went on. “This is much better, isn't it?”
The straps made a little slithering sound as they let go of her arms and ankles.
First thing, Daniel bounced from the bed and hurtled for the door. Her movements weren't as fast as they used to be, but she didn't think about that until afterwards. She was running at the speed of a normal person, slower, her heels wobbling under her. She threw herself at the door-handle. It was locked, but worse, she was wrecked with a nausea so bad she couldn't stand upright.
The figures rose behind her. Daniel turned, but she couldn't even think about trying to run. They didn't have to grab her. One of the smaller figures took her arm, not aggressively.
“You see now?” it said. Its voice was barely human filtered through the mask. “Come here.”
She turned Daniel around so that she could see a running-machine, not really different from the sort you'd find in a gym, out of place between the sterile walls. Daniel stumbled toward it, looking around for any possible way to escape. The nausea was starting to drain from her again. Had it really just been tiredness?
“Get on it,” the woman said.
Daniel stood on the belt.
“Run as fast as you can.”
Daniel took a step forward, and instantly the dizzy tiredness was gone. Her body was as fast as it'd ever been; she didn't even feel that she was wearing the heels. The belt clattered under her and the woman had to order her to stop.
“Better, isn't it?” the figure said. “Now do what you want.” She spread her arms, leaving herself unprotected.
Daniel rushed to tackle her with all the force the speed gave her. She was slow and heavy and set one foot down wrong, feeling a chill of pain up through her ankle. She collapsed before the wrapped-up figure.
“You can only use the suit's powers on our command,” the voice said. “When trying to act by your own will, you will be even weaker and slower than an unmodified human. We really didn't want to do this, you understand, but you forced our hand. Get up, Guide.”
Daniel bounced back up, as if her body had just forgotten the pain in her ankle. The figures stood before her, faceless in their masks. She couldn't tell if they were looking at her.
“There is one more thing,” the woman said. “You will need to remember not to go against our wishes in the future.” There was a pause, as if she smiled. “And once that is done, I don't believe we will need to work on you again.”
A door swished open. The figures left. Daniel tried to rush after them, but her reactions were too slow. The door closed in her face.
As she was about to turn, she noticed a bright red spot on her bare shoulder, a needle-mark. First she thought about the needle that had knocked her out in the pit, but that one had been in her leg, hadn't it? This was something else.
It felt like the lights had dimmed, but maybe they were flickering to a higher brightness and her eyes couldn't take it. There was a toxic taste in her mouth.
Written by on 01 June 2019