The moment Marcia was dead, I hurried over to Sandra. When I saw she was still breathing, I sighed in relief.
Theodor was still standing over Marcia’s body, unsure what to do next.
“I’ve got to make sure Sandra’s all right,” I answered.
I knew we didn’t have time to fuck around, but I could see that she was getting worse. If we were lucky, Marcia had kept this little exploit of hers a secret from headquarters and we might have a couple of minutes.
Theodor followed me inside and went straight for the storage room. It took him a moment before he found what he’d been looking for. A memory contraption, which he promptly swallowed.
“You all right?” I asked while I was busy hooking Sandra back up. “Did that bitch fuck with your mind after all?”
He joined me, shaking his head, a serious expression on his face.
“No, there’s something else though.”
I stared at him wide eyed. “You’re saying it’s-?”
“I don’t know. My brain’s been acting weird for a while. God knows what it is. Might as well get my hands on a few more of those.”
With that, he made his way back to the storage room.
Once I’d hooked Sandra back up, I quickly joined him. We had no time to lose. As fast as I could, I stocked up on all the things I’d need to keep us alive, or at least give us a chance to. Weapons, grenades, protection, drones and a few other handy gadgets.
Turns out, I didn’t need any of that or wouldn’t because only a few minutes after we’d taken care of Marcia, one of headquarters’ heavily armed support squads stormed the building.
Before I could even react, half a dozen guns were pointed at me.
“Well shit,” I cursed. “You guys got here quicker than I imagined.”
A man in a plain suite stepped forward.
“We set out the moment you made contact with Exterminator 5A00114. Unfortunately, her actions weren’t within our calculations as was the result.”
“Well, what now? You’re going to execute us?”
A smile showed on the man’s face.
“That would be a bit too crude, wouldn’t you agree? No, we’re here to make sure you stay in line for a little interrogation.”
Then he turned from me to Theodor.
“And to learn more about that theory of yours.”
Theodor’s face turned to a grin.
“You think we’re just coming along?”
I could see him ball his fists as he stared at the armed man in front of him. Their faces were hard, not showing the slightest of emotions, and I was sure they’d been briefed about Theodor’s abilities.
“Should you decide not to follow orders, we’re authorized to shoot. So why don’t we all calm down and-“
“And become one of your damned lab rats?” Theodor spat at the man.
“Theodor, don’t. Those guys are the real deal. They won’t hesitate.”
For a moment my eyes met his, and I knew there was nothing I could say to him. Then he focused on the group in front of him again.
Before I could so much as say another word, he rushed them. To my surprise, they didn’t gun him down. Instead, they shot him with what I assumed to be a high-voltage teaser.
Theodor started shaking and convulsing before he crashed to the floor. He wasn’t out yet, tried to get up, but he was pushed to the ground and injected with something. A few moments later, his body went limp.
The guy in the suit still stood there, undeterred, his eyes resting on me.
“Well now, Exterminator 7D11087, are you going to give us as much trouble as your friend here?”
I could guess why they’d only incapacitate Theodor. His strange symbiosis made him valuable to headquarters. I, on the other hand, was nothing but a low level exterminator, easily replaceable and not worth a damn.
I grinned at the guy and relaxed.
“Nope, I’m all yours.”
With this two of the man came forward, put my hands behind my back and apprehended me. While they handcuffed me, I watched as they put a variety of restraints on Theodor.
Theodor wasn’t out yet, and was still mumbling to himself and cursing at his captors.
“Hit him again,” the man in the suit said.
I watched in anger as Theodor was hit with another injection. Before I could so much as say a thing, they pushed me into another room. A chair was shoved towards me and I was told to sit down.
“What’s this now,” I started but was hit with the back of one of the man’s guns. My head exploded in pain as I tumbled to the ground.
“Fucking hell,” I cursed and sat down.
My head was throbbing and I could feel warm, sticky blood running down the back of my head.
Once they’d strapped me to the chair, the two men left. I don’t know for how long I sat there. Outside people were still busy, most likely stripping the place and securing all data we had gathered. Not like it mattered.
Eventually, exhaustion and stress overtook me and I drifted off to sleep.
I jerked awake when the door was thrown open. A plain looking woman with hard eyes stepped inside. She brought a chair into the room and took a seat opposite me.
“Well, Exterminator 7D11087, looks like things have gone a bit awry here.”
“You guess so, Adjudicator?”
For a moment, an emotion that might have been anger washed over her face. It was gone as soon as it had appeared.
“I’m sure you’re well aware what happens to people who go against the organization’s orders, aren’t you?”
“Sure am. What are you waiting for?”
“You know, Exterminator 7D11087,” she started and got up. She took a few steps towards me with a condescending expression on her face. “All in due time.”
“What’s the hold up? You want to catch up on old times? Maybe a little small talk about-“
The force of her slap made my head jerk to the right. Because of the restraints, my neck was painfully twisted, and I grimaced.
“Now then,” she said, without the slightest difference to her voice. “Let’s talk.”
“Why’d you want to talk to a lowly exterminator like me? Aren’t you dissecting Theodor as we speak? Shouldn’t that give you all the information you need?”
“That was the idea, yes, but it seems the higher-ups have a different plan.”
“I thought you Adjudicators were the higher-ups?” I asked tauntingly.
She laughed, but didn’t comment on it.
“Given its abilities and performance record, the symbiotic organism proves to be highly valuable to the organization. However, for now, we have more pressing issues at hand. We need to know more about that supposed incident that’s to occur here.”
“So, why are you talking to me? Theodor’s the one who’s seen it!”
“I’m interested in your thoughts on the matter, Exterminator 7D11087.”
“And why’d the thoughts of a low exterminator such as me matter to you?”
This time her slap came with such force that the inside of my mouth was cut and I tasted blood.
“Fuck,” I cursed in pain. “All right, I tell you this. I’ve got no fucking clue what he saw. He tried to explain it and talked about some horrible, interdimensional creature, but it was all too damn vague. In his words, this creature wants to order all of existence and that it’s coming here to order this very reality. He said the creature is so high above A-Class, it would fall into E-Class.”
The Adjudicator shook her head.
“That’s not possible. Even if E-Class organisms exist, our research proves it would be impossible for it to enter a different reality.”
“And isn’t that research all theoretical? And even if, don’t you think a being such as this wouldn’t be able to break the rules?”
She was quiet for a moment, regarding my words.
“If what you say is true, why haven’t you-?”
“Because of Exterminator 5A00114! She was too fucking busy trying to get rid of us, presumably on your fucking orders!”
Once more she regarded me before she sighed.
“I guess, there’s no need to talk anymore.”
I couldn’t help but grin as she took out a communication device.
“Figures,” I spat at her as two man came into the room.
This was it. They were going to get rid of me right here, right now.
The Adjudicator seemed to read my thoughts.
“As I said, in due time, Exterminator 7D11087.”
A moment later one of the man rammed a syringe into my neck and before I passed out, I found myself connected to some sort of terminal.
I don’t know for how long I was out, but whatever they’d injected me with, plunged me into a surreal hell.
It must’ve been some sort of mind breaker to analyze everything I’d seen and experienced over the past weeks. They stripped my mind open, invaded my deepest thoughts and leafed through them like a fucking book.
The worst, however, was that while they analyzed my memories, I experienced every event all over again. Once more I saw the terrible destructive visions and once more I felt the overwhelming powers of the A-Class creature. It was my own personal hell, and there was nothing I could do to escape it.
As I was subjugated to our last clash with the creature repeatedly, I felt that strange emotion once more. When Theodor destroyed the creature, there’d been fear and anger, but behind it all, I’d felt something else. A hint of a different emotion, an emotion from further away. In each new iteration, I pushed the anger aside, the fear, and probed for it.
And I realized what it had been: satisfaction, glee, success.
I didn’t understand. This had to be Sandra’s emotion, or, hell, Theodor’s. Yet, it felt so different, so alien. No, not them.
In this perpetual, waking nightmare, I focused on it, taking it all in and eventually, a different memory returned from the back of my mind.
It was an image I’d seen before. I saw a wasteland, upside down mountains, and behind it all an unfathomable existence lingered.
I back peddled, tried to banish the memory, the image, but I felt being drawn out, pulled forward. Tentacles spread through the sky, the stars, to galaxies. I felt a mind so vast and powerful it resonated to the entirety of a universe.
A silent scream reverberated inside my head, as my consciousness was almost torn asunder from laying eyes on this vision.
Then I was back, felt the restraints digging into my flesh. It took me long moments to realize where I was.
I was still strapped to the same chair and still inside the same room. I thought they’d kill me right after they were done with me, after their analysis was over, but here I was. My head was pounding terribly, and I felt sick to my stomach. For a moment I retched and spit on the ground.
It was only then that I caught on to the noise outside.
I heard screaming and shouting. For a second I thought Theodor had freed himself, but then I heard the blaring of Sandra’s alarms.
“Hey, what the hell’s going on?” I screamed at the top of my lungs.
After a while my screams were noticed and one of the heavily armed men entered the room and cut my restraints. For a second I just stared at him without understanding what the hell was going on. I opened my mouth to ask, but he cut me off right away.
“Out!” he screamed at me and pushed me from the room and back into the main part of the apartment.
The Adjudicator was on the phone, screaming into it over the sound of the blaring alarms. I looked around, not understand what was going on.
I saw Theodor in the back of the room, still restrained, but shaking and cursing to himself. When he noticed me, pain distorted his face. No, I realized, not pain, it was terror, pure and utter terror.
He opened his mouth to say something, but under the chaos of the room I couldn’t make out a single word he was saying. I didn’t need to though because it finally dawned on me what was going on.
“… how long till they are…,” I heard part of the Adjudicator’s words.
It was here.
Whatever we’d thought would happen, finally had.
Almost in a trance, I stepped past the Adjudicator and to the computer where the man in the suit was desperately trying to make sense of what was happening.
“Fucking move,” I screamed and without waiting for an answer, I pushed him aside.
I opened Sandra’s programs, looked through the data and saw that the numbers were through the roof and yet, they still kept rising.
When I opened a map of the city it I saw a multitude of emerging signatures, but I gave them no notice. No, I focused on the one in the center.
It was a giant signature that had appeared right in the center of the city and was spreading at an alarming rate. Within seconds it engulfed the entire city center, but with each passing moment it seemed to spread faster. Soon it was engulfing the entire city, but it didn’t slow down.
Then the alarms stopped as Sandra’s entire software shut down, unable to keep up with the magnitude of the incident.
As I stared at the screen, at the error messages flooding it, I finally heard Theodor. He was in hysterics.
“It’s here,” he brought out over the general chaos of the apartment. “It’s here and we’re all fucked!”
As I turned around, I met the eyes of the Adjudicator and saw the raw terror on her face, the incomprehension as she screamed into the phone in her hand.
And then it hit us, a wave of energy, a presence. It was nothing but the smallest of efforts, only a slight brush, but sweat broke out all over my body. My heart was pounding in my chest, I staggered and almost crashed to the floor before the immeasurable power was gone again.
This was it.
Fuck monsters and fuck our entire reality.