CHAPTER 43 - Fury By Another Name (5)
Alex was hopelessly, utterly, and completely lost.
He had been wandering around this facility for hours. It might even have been a day, by now, if his exhaustion were any indication. Clean stainless-steel corridors unfolded like a maze around him, doors dotting the walls every so often. He continued to explore in an attempt to find his way out, avoiding the guard patrols all the while.
ALICE was already running low on mana from all the uses of OPTICs, and he was running out of time. He peered around the corner nearest him and breathed a sigh of relief when he didn’t see any patrols. Something at the end of the hall caught his eye, and he grew excited.
‘Looks like we’re almost done. How you holding up?’
‘Better than you, I’m sure. You going to be able to make it to the LZ after we get out of here?’
‘Won’t be an issue. Just gotta keep pushing forward, right?’
He was walking down the corridor. A sign at the end showed an arrow and the word “EXIT.” Not finding any other patrols as he followed the marking, he made his way to the door the following arrows were pointing towards. He checked for an alarm system, frowning when he didn’t find one.
‘Is it just me, or is this too easy?’
‘We’ve been lost in here for quite a while, and you think it’s too easy? Just open it, Fen.’
Alex chuckled quietly to himself. ALICE had a point, and he reached for the handle. A simple turn and the door swung open silently. Alex hurriedly stepped through and shut it behind him before anyone noticed. When he turned away from closing the door, he found himself standing in a wide-open plain with mountains in the distance.
‘Wait… This isn’t right. Weren’t we in the mountains?’
Nobody answered him. He looked down to see that ALICE was gone, and he was in casual clothing. He spun about, and the door he had just come through had vanished. Everywhere he looked, the grass extended into the distance, with mountains on the horizon.
‘ALICE? Come on, this isn’t funny. Which way to the LZ?’
Alex began to run through possible scenarios in his head. The most likely was that the door was trapped with some sort of mental magic, and he was going to need to break free. These spells always had a failsafe in case they backfired, so Alex picked a direction and began walking.
Minutes passed. Then hours. The sun set and rose again. Alex was starting to get hungry, and he was nearly collapsed from exhaustion. But he kept pressing on, not ready to give up on himself just yet.
It was about the same time that his eyes would close for untold lengths of time while he was still walking that he spied a plume of smoke in the distance. Something stirred inside him, like a sense of déjà vu, and he looked to the sky for some unknown reason.
He was greeted by a sunny, cloudless blue sky, empty even of birds. With a shrug, he looked back at the smoke, only to find it gone. In front of him, instead, stood a small child wearing a familiar uniform. Alex tensed, reaching for the rifle he had forgotten wasn’t there. He dropped to a crouch, fists ready as the youth approached.
The boy couldn’t have been more than thirteen. His blonde hair was buzzed to the point of being nearly invisible atop his head. He wore the Gerssian military uniform and carried a rifle that would have looked comically large if Alex wasn’t so focused on the fact that it was real.
“Listen, kid, I don’t want to fight you. Just let me through, and we can pretend this never happened.”“No can do, kiddo.”
The reply didn’t come from the boy, but from behind Alex, instead. He turned with a start to find dozens of soldiers wearing that same uniform behind him. When he turned to the boy again, there were even more people. Some wore casual clothes; others had high-tech gear like what he wore.
Beside the boy himself stood someone Alex thought he recognized, but he couldn’t figure it out. The man had white hair and red eyes, just like Alex. He had a hole in his abdomen, and Alex began looking at the others. All of them had life-threatening injuries. They shouldn’t have been able to stand, let alone talk or approach him like this.
The boy spoke this time. His voice was soft but solid, like someone who had seen too much fighting and was tired of it all.
“We came to pick you up, Raud Vargr.”
Starting with the boy, flames began spreading, enveloping the people surrounding Alex. Black infernos that blotted out the sun as they reached high into the sky. The fire started moving towards him, wrapping around his body and dragging him down like quicksand into their depths.
“Did you really think you could overcome your own sin?”
This new voice was dark and menacing, and Alex began to panic for the first time in his life. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t cry out. He batted at the flames and struggled with all his might, but he couldn’t resist their pull.
A single elegant hand reached through the flames and Alex took hold of it. The fire melted away, and a gorgeous woman with red hair and sparkling blue eyes stood before him. She wore a stunning yet simple white sundress and a necklace with a glowing blue pendant.
She smiled at him and pointed at the smoke that once again could be seen in the distance.
“No sin is beyond redemption when we work together. Right, my Fenrir?”
Alex was silent, and his vision began to blur from the tears welling up in his eyes as the woman spoke again.
“After all, you and I made a promise, didn’t we?”