Gwen could hear the atmosphere rushing past her ears as she accelerated downward. She was free falling now into what looked like an eternal pit of darkness. Her fears mounted and her body tensed as she waited for the unseen ground to shatter her frame into pieces. Gwen screamed in terror and thrashed her arms like a wounded duck. She sucked the gum she was chewing down her throat and coughed violently into the void. Her hair beat against her face as she summersaulted backwards over and over. Gwen’s eyes finally caught hold of a single dot in the distance. The light began to grow brighter as she fell awkwardly toward it. The thing looked like an open platform surrounded by a sea of darkness. A big yellow bullseye was painted on the concrete.
Gwen somehow knew this was going to be her destination. Her terrifying trip would end with a horrific splat. She covered her face and closed her eyes. Her stomach lurched into her throat as her acceleration began to decrease rapidly. Her body pivoted forward and her boots made contact with the pavement. It was the strangest feeling she had ever experienced in her whole life. It felt like she was being placed on the platform. She opened her eyes and looked around her for the harnesses that gripped her body. There was nothing but darkness. The feeling of weightlessness retreated from her torso and legs. Her muscles took over as her own weight returned. Gwen felt like she was going to puke.
“Damn, I am good!” Said the voice of Dr. Howard
Gwen looked over to the woman standing in the open doorway. She was wearing dark green scrubs and had a welding helmet on her head. Her white lab coat was covered with spotted burn marks. The tattered lapel housed the name Dr. Howard in pink lettering. Gwen could see the outline of a leg brace on the hefty woman.
“What was that?” yelled Gwen as she held her abdomen. She was trying her best not to throw up onto the painted platform. Luckily the feeling was subsiding.
“That,” began Dr. Howard as she took a bite of what appeared to be an energy bar. “Is my Nightshade Security System. Nothing gets in or out of my dead space regen without me saying it first.”
Gwen tried to smile politely at the doctor. She stepped forward to introduce herself and slipped on the rind of a watermelon. Her foot shot forward as she stumbled backwards. She nearly fell over in the process but managed to keep her balance. Gwen kicked the stupid rind out of the way. It was at this point that she notice that the whole platform was covered in watermelons. It looked like someone had gone crazy in the produce section. They were all smashed to pieces across the bullseye in odd intervals. Gwen pointed to them uneasily. “What is all this?”
“These are my first attempts to slowing an object down using inverted gravity wells… or what I like to call inverted gravity wells. I am sure there is some theoretical physicist somewhere rolling over in her grave because I mislabeled the phenomenon,” said Dr. Howard as she hobbled onto the platform and kicked a watermelon into the abyss. “I personally don’t care what any of the scientist on this base think. I figured this crap out all on my own… I used Newton’s inverse square law for gravity and made its influence proportional to the opening of the aperture. The wider the opening in the portal the more inverted gravitational force applied to the falling object. It’s all dynamics merging slowly into statics… or vector cancelation. My real mistake was thinking that I could make the opposing vector force linear through Newton’s second law… boy was I wrong…” Dr. Howard chuckled to herself. “I lost a lot of damn good produce in the process of getting this thing ready for your arrival.”
“You were still testing this stuff out before it came?!” asked Gwen with frustration as she looked around at the rather fresh-looking smashed produce. “What if it hadn’t work? What if I had hit the platform like all the watermelons?!”
“Hold your horse’s Princess Creampuff. I could see you on the monitor upstairs…and I guessed your weight perfectly. You weigh roughly 10 stones,” said Dr. Howard with an edge of annoyance. These hot-chicks were all the same. Walking around Camp Snowflake thinking that their farts didn’t stink. Thinking that the world somehow revolved around them and their perfectly sculpted bodies. Dr. Howard cleared her throat as loudly as she could and spat a loogie into the abyss. She continued. “I am not an idiot Agent Garcia. That’s the whole reason you had a smooth landing a few minutes ago and not a splat. The cross sectional area of the open aperture is directly proportional to the weight of the subject times the acceleration of gravity minus .357 stones… or was it plus .357 pounds?”
Dr. Howard scratched the back of her neck and tried to visualize the equation she had made only moments ago. She had plugged the values into the PID function after modeling the system after g(x). It was all getting foggy; why the hell was everything getting foggy now-a-days?
Dr. Howard pushed past the details as she continued, “Either way it worked on you and that’s all that counts. I can create a real program for it in the future… when I have the time...”
Gwen walked over to the hefty woman and extended her hand. This was a perfect time to see if her Citrine Stone she had sowed into her glove would work. She looked the doctor in the eyes and prepared herself for the worst. If the stone lit up she would need to act quickly and incapacitate the creature before it could make a portal. Gwen cleared her throat, “I think we got off on the wrong foot Dr. Howard. It wasn’t my intention to insult you. My name is Agent Garcia but you can call me Gwen.”
“What the hell do you want me to do with that?” asked Dr. Howard as she looked at the extended hand. Who the hell shook hands nowadays? What was this, 18th century England? Leave it up to the airheaded supermodels to choose what time period they wanted to live in.
Gwen’s brown eyes narrowed on the hefty woman in front of her. The display of apprehension could only mean one thing. Gwen’s hand started creeping up on her service weapon. Only a nightshade wouldn’t shake hands with a human. Maybe Dr. Howard could feel the energy of the Citrine stone, “I want you to shake my hand Dr. Howard.”
“You want me to shake your hand?” said Dr. Howard as she reached out and gripped Gwen by the wrist and pulled her in quickly. She turned the Agent’s hand over and looked at the yellow Citrine Stone sowed into the tactical glove. The thing had been perfectly concealed into fabric. Dr. Howard chuckled loudly at this and smiled at the same time, “You are a clever little Mexican Witch aren’t you?”
Gwen’s training took over almost instantly at this remark. She shoved the woman backward and twisted her wrist free. Her left foot shifted behind her as her right foot power kicked the leg brace out from under the doctor. The husky woman cried out in pain and collapsed to the floor like a sack of bricks. Gwen retreated backwards and pointed her service weapon at the doctor. “Where is the real Dr. Howard, you bloody bleacher?!”
“DAMN YOU PRINCESS BUTTERCUP!” said Dr. Howard as she rolled around on the ground holding her leg. No one had ever gotten the better of her like that, “YOU FIGHT DIRTY DON’T YOU!”
Gwen could see that the woman was in pain… but at the same time she was laughing through her welding helmet. Gwen tried to radio out to the Grand Atrium. She synced up her watch to the data disc and spoke calmly, “This is Agent Gwen Garcia with the nightshade extraction force. I need all available units to converge on the Electro Lab; code word ‘Robespierre’. We have a live Asset that has escaped its cell.”
“The base can’t hear you down here, Agent Garcia,” Said Dr. Howard as she scooted over to the far wall and propped herself up on the trash can. She opened the welding helmet and set it on the ground next to her and tried to control her breathing. The pain was beginning to subside. Dr. Howard hadn’t had a good laugh like that since the opening night of Titanic, “Damn I like you already, Agent Garcia. When General Dilk told me you would be coming down I thought the worst. I thought you would be brainwashed.”
Dr. Howard tried to reach for her energy bar. It was too far away.
Gwen ignored the woman on the ground and tried again, “I repeat; this is Agent Garcia with the extraction force…. I need help down here in R&D.”
“No calls are getting though the dead space my Little Debbie Cake. I designed this whole place to block all signals without a source code. Nothing gets in and nothing gets out...without me saying it does.” Said Dr. Howard as she reached down and adjusted the leg brace. Luckily the damage wasn’t too bad. The Mexican chick had only just bent the frame… she hit like a girl.
Gwen pointed the gun at the doctor, “Give me the source code!”
“I am not a nightshade you stupid bimbo.” Said Dr. Howard, “If it will shut you up I’ll touch your little citrine stone and we can get on with our lives.”
Gwen paused and thought about this for a minute. She eventually relented and used her teeth to take off the tactical glove. She tossed the thing over to Dr. Howard and watched as the hefty woman rolled up her lab coat. She placed the yellow Citrine Stone right next to the big black “Chi Rho” tattoo on her forearm. The thing didn’t light up…
Gwen was dumfounded by this, “Why didn’t it light up?”
“Because I am not a nightshade you idiot,” said Dr. Howard as she used the trashcan to pull herself up to her feet. She gritted her teeth as she set her weight back down on the bad leg, “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the precautions. I feel like you responded perfectly to my actions… as a matter-of-fact, I feel like I can trust you better.”
Gwen put her service weapon away and helped the doctor hobble down the hallway. Her cheeks were getting warm with embarrassment. She had almost shot the doctor, “I am sorry for kicking you in the leg like that. I just thought that maybe you could feel the citrine stone vibrating and didn’t want to shake my hand because of it. I had to act fast just in case you were planning something… I over reacted.”
Dr. Howard handed the tactical glove back over to Gwen. She chuckled as she spoke, “I was impressed with your ingenuity Agent Garcia. I don’t normally shake hands but your insistence made me a little suspicious about the intention. I had to see what you were hiding and I got what I deserved…” said Dr. Howard as she reached out and typed in the code to the Electro Lab. “But you have to be very cautious nowadays. You can’t just trust anyone you meet… heck I can’t even trust the assistant that was assigned to me.”
“What happened to your assistant?” asked Gwen as she watched the big stainless steel doors slide open with a swoosh. The bright lights from the Electro Lab flooded the hallway. Gwen looked around the clean room at all the chaos and confusion. It look like a tornado had rushed through the facility and thrown everything against the walls. Expensive equipment was toppled over and water was spewing from a broken pipe on the ceiling. From somewhere in the distance the sound of an electrical panel sparking could be heard. The only thing that seemed untouched was a big black ball resting on a table in the center of the room. It had the words “Type-1” spray painted in white across its surface.
“What happened here?” Asked Gwen.
“This is what happens when you get complacent with the rules that have been establish for nightshades. All this mess was caused by one rogue lab assistant,” said Dr. Howard as she rounded the room and pointed to all the garbage on the floor. She couldn’t help the frustration welling up in her chest, “All this damage was her fault. Years of development wasted in a single day of carelessness. That little shit knew what we were going to do with the Goodall Program. She sent the whole facility into a lockdown procedure 12 hours ago and portaled into the server room on the east side. She destroyed The Dream Walk System I had been developing.”
“How did she get access to the Lab?” asked Gwen incredulously. She was being careful not to step on the broken glass, “This place looked pretty secure from the platform on the outside. I mean it’s completely off the grid.”
Dr. Howard shook her head in exasperation, “I don’t know how the nightshade got access to the Electro Lab. My security system upstairs should have detected her presence and dropped her into the void like a stone… but it didn’t. The security system actually logged her in as biometrically human. The best I can figure it is that the nightshade must have piggybacked into the place on Rose’s person when she accessed the lab. ”
“Piggyback into the Lab?” asked Gwen as she looked around the room at all the mess. It seemed like they were the only ones in the facility now. “I am guessing your saying that the nightshade shrunk itself and stowed away on the assistant… I mean how else would she have tricked the system into think she was human?”
“I believe that’s exactly how it happened. The nightshade got in using a pocket or a purse…something on Rose’s person,” said Dr. Howard as she kicked a chair out of the way, “These claims are all tenuous at the moment. I haven’t reviewed the footage all the way through; mostly because I haven’t had the time to review the footage all the way through. I am still kind of dealing with the mess.”
Gwen followed her. “How did you wind up stopping the nightshade?”
“I overloaded the data disk on her pretty little neck using the Faraday Cage System.” Said Dr. Howard with a chuckle. Images of the nightshade dropping to the floor like a dead fish were still running though her mind, “These creatures think they have us all figured out Agent Garcia. They think we are stupid. Their cockiness is what will bring them down in the end, I am sure of it. At least that’s my whole prediction on the situation. Cockiness blinds the mind to all the loopholes in their precious plans. They haven’t ruined us yet!”
“But didn’t she destroy the computers with your research on them?” asked Gwen as she leaned against a table. She pulled out the gum dispenser she was fiddling with and dropped a few square into her mouth, “Do you have a backup system somewhere else that the nightshade didn’t know about? Something that would allow us to continue the mission?”
“Nope, there is no backup system somewhere else. The server room held all the information and the programs we needed to Dream Walk inside the nightshades heads.” Said Dr. Howard, “Rose and I had actually figured out how to remote into the male nightshades minds and see their dreams and access their memories… All we needed was a willing subject to test it out for us. Rose and I were not going to do it… we had to be the ones to make sure the program ran smoothly on the outside.”
“So that’s where I would have come in?” said Gwen. She was chewing her gum nervously now, “Your system would have allowed me access to the dreams they were having about these female nightshades…”
“Yep, that’s where you would have come in.” Said Dr. Howard as she turn and looked at Gwen, “You were going to be the test subject for the Dream Walking experiment. General Dilk and I agreed that the first person into a nightshades head should have military training and a deep seeded hatred for the nightshade race. He told me he had the perfect person for the job on the extraction team. He’s been reading all your Asset Extraction Files and was very impressed.”
Gwen didn’t say a word to the doctor. She hated how her life was being written down in all these government files. It seemed like an abuse of power, “So I guess that’s it then… We have lost all the information to perform the experiment. There is no real reason for me to be here. My mission is a failure before it even got started.”
“I wouldn’t say that Agent Garcia.” Said Dr. Howard with a smile, “When God closes a door he always opens a window… or however that saying goes.”
Gwen raised an eyebrow to this expression of confidence. She watched as the husky woman hobbled over to a dark hallway. Gwen watched as she pulled a long stainless steel table out from the open corridor. There was a white sheet over the top of the mobile table… it looked like there was a person underneath. Gwen watched as a pale white hand with dark black claws slipped out from underneath the sheet and dangled in the air. The brown spotted design on the skin was elegant and frightening.
“Is that…” Gwen paused and reached for her service weapon.
Dr. Howard shook her head excitedly, “Yep, Gwen, this is the window that God has opened for us. This will be the key to our success!!”
“This is the nightshade that destroyed the Electro Lab?” asked Gwen. Her firearm was now in her hand… she was waiting for the thing to give her a reason to shoot.
“Yep, this is her” said Dr. Howard as she pushed the stainless steel table under a low hanging lamp. She hobbled over and turned the light on. Dr. Howard reached under the table and place some gloves on her hands, “Forget about all that Dream Walking stuff for a minute; all that can be redeveloped at another time. What we have here is something better than that. This specimen is going to be the downfall of the whole nightshade race… the bleachers really screwed up when they sent this cream puff to my lab!”
“I am not seeing what you are talking about” said Gwen as she approached the body slowly. There was no way this bleacher was going to get the better of her, “I have extracted several nightshades before, Dr. Howard… what makes this one so special?”
“A lot of things, Agent Garcia.” Said Dr. Howard as she pulled away the sheet and revealed the nightshade underneath. Its chest was still moving up and down to the rhythm of its breathing. Its eyes were closed tightly. Dr. Howard continued, “The first thing that makes this capture special is the state of the nightshade. Its body and mind have been perfectly preserved by the shock of the Faraday System. It’s like the lights are one but nobody is home.”
Dr. Howard reached over and smacked the cheek of the nightshade. Nothing happened. She smacked the creature harder and grabbed the body by the shoulders and shook it. They both waited… nothing happened. Dr. Howard reached over and forced one of the eyelids open with her fingers. The red eye underneath was moving rapidly back and forth… but not responding to anything in the room. It was completely mindless.
Dr. Howard let go of the eyelid and reached under the table again. She pulled out a long cylinder wrapped with thin radio wire. She placed the device on the nightshades chest and showed Gwen the digital display. Dr. Howard tried to control the excitement welling up inside of her, “The second thing that makes this situation special is the energy levels of this particular female. Her biological frequency put her in the upper percentile for their race. She is sitting at 163Mhz! This already tells me that she is a very important person in the nightshade community. With significant digits like these she would be able to walk in and out of secure areas in the nightshade strong hold. She was probably a top leader.”
Gwen started at the digital display in front of her. It’s read out was impressive if they were going by the charts that Bob Orton had provided. She could now see why the female nightshade was so special, but couldn’t quite put together why all this was an ‘open window’ for the human race, “I remember reading about the significance of their biological frequency, but how does this help us?”
“I believe we can hack her mind!” said Dr. Howard. “I believe we can user her as a Trojan Horse to infiltrate the nightshade organization.”
“Hack her mind…What are you talking about?” Asked Gwen confused. She pointed to the head of the creature, “Her mind has been scrambled into nothingness. It looks like there isn’t anything left to hack. Everything has been dumped!”
“That isn’t true at all. We can still hack the biological functions of the nightshade. I can literally place your mind inside her body and you can portal right into Prewitt Labs. It would be the perfect infiltration on our part. Literally no one would stop you because of your biological status in their society! We would be literally “nightshading” the nightshades.”
Gwen felt uneasy about this crazy idea. She stared at the comatose nightshade on the table with apprehension. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be one of these things. The idea disgusted her on so many levels. She shivered at the thought of becoming something she hated so much, “I would need some time to think about the procedure. I mean this is a big decision to make… there are so many things that could go wrong.”
Dr. Howard could see her resisting the idea, “You controlling a nightshade body isn’t any different from the other reason you came down here. With the Dream Walking Program we would have done the same thing… only in that scenario you wouldn’t have had any control over the host. Try and hear me out on this one Agent Garcia because we don’t have a lot of time. The transference of your consciousness over to the nightshade would not be permanent. You would not need to give up your body for her body. You would just be controlling her body with your consciousness for a small bit of time… you would be here only for the missions we needed to pull.”
“But what happens to my body during these missions?” asked Gwen. She was beginning to raise her voice, “I feel like doing this puts me in a vulnerable state.”
“You would switch states as soon as you got back,” Said Dr. Howard as she rounded the table slowly; her leg brace was squeaking now. She was gesturing back and forth between the nightshade on the table and Gwen, “Your consciousness would go into the nightshade and leave your body on standby with me. Then when you got back we would quickly change your state… we would make you human again.”
“This doesn’t sound like a good Idea,” Said Gwen. She didn’t care how well the doctor was explaining the situation, “What if something happened during transition and we both wound up dying? What if something happened and I got stuck inside that creature forever. There is way too much that could happen to me.”
Dr. Howard was going to object when a loud alarm sounded overhead. Red lights began flashing all around the facility. The monitors in the Electro Lab came to life all around them. The image of a silver haired man appeared on the screen. It was General Dilk and he looked like he was running down a hallway. He seemed stressed out, “This is General Dilk. I am putting the whole base under a code red lockdown effective immediately. We have lost outside communication with HQ one hour ago. The nightshade race has taken control of the whole compound. They are somehow portaling into our facility from a remote place that isn’t from this world. All real human entities that have not been frozen into place must make their way to the nearest extraction points for evacuation. This is not a drill people. I repeat humans are officially being harvested by nightshades! If you are not frozen in place at this time… then get the hell out of dodge! They are coming!”
The monitors cut out and the only thing that could be seen was white noise. The sound of static filled the speakers. The Electro Lab came to life as a massive portal ripped open at the center of the lab. Gwen and Dr. Howard watched as a white haired man jumped from the opening of the portal and rolled onto the floor. The sound of hissing and screaming could be heard from the other side of the threshold. It sounded like a whole army of nightshades were coming right for them. The General came to a kneeling position and turned back to the cosmic opening in one fluid motion. He was holding the spikenard in his hands, “Sorry I have to go, ladies, but please accept this gift as a show of my appreciation!”
The General fired three supercharged spikes into the portal. The heated steel missiles burst into flames and erupted from the opening like a bomb. It looked like the gates of hell had been opened in the Electro Lab. The terrible screaming and hissing of the nightshades had been silenced. The portal slowly closed and vanished into thin air. The only sound that could be heard was the sound of water falling from a burst pipe onto the ground. It was all draining back into the reservoir.
The General staggered to his feet and brushed himself off. He looked around the destroyed Electro Lab in wonder. He eyes caught hold of Gwen and Dr. Howard, “What the hell happened here?”
“It’s a long story,” Said Dr. Howard.
“Don’t bother telling it.” Said General Dilk as he hobbled over to them. He dropped the expended spikenard onto the floor, “I am sure it has the same explanation as everything else. The whole base is filled with female Assets hissing like pythons. They have managed to somehow freeze the minds of every human in the base.” The General Looked at Dr. Howard and pointed to his data disk, “If you hadn’t tampered with my data disk they would have frozen me too. How are we looking with the Project Daydream or whatever the hell you are calling it?”
“We had a slight setback with the Dream Walking System.” Said Dr. Howard as she looked back over to Agent Garcia and studied her face. The gravity of the situation was now causing the Agent to reconsider her proposal, “but Gwen and I were talking about alternative solutions to the problem. We think we might be able to infiltrate their base.”
“Well let’s get a move on,” said the General, “The free world is ending as we speak. This whole base has been compromised with nightshades. Everyone that isn’t a nightshade is being hunted down and harvested into containers. We need to act fast!”
Dr. Howard tuned to Gwen, “Well, will you give it a try?”
Gwen felt trapped by the proposal.
“If I decide to do this…” Said Gwen with apprehension and anxiety. Her heart was pounding and she felt like she wanted to throw up, “can you promise me that I will not get stuck in that things head… I want to get in, and I want to get out as quickly as possible.”
“Oh, I can get you out!” said Dr. Howard with a chuckle. She walked away from them quickly. She was headed to a back room. “Don’t you worry about that Agent Garcia. Let me grab a blatherskite from the back… I need to reprogram the data disk on your neck before we begin.”
Gwen turned to The General. She didn’t speak a word to him as she gripped his right hand and maneuvered her body behind him. Her left elbow strategically slammed into his abdomen as she pulled up on his right wrist. The General groaned and flipped forward onto the concrete. Gwen kept her grip on the wrist and placed her firearm against the skull of the General, “Sorry about this sir, but we can’t trust anyone.”
The General grimaced in pain as Gwen placed the Citrine Stone to his forehead and waited for this thing to light up.
Gwen smiled at the darkness