Elixium

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Chapter 15 – Energy Realignment

Tom waited for the limousine on his front doorstep. It was nearly 4 a.m. He huddled against the cold, his breath smoking in the crisp air and the crescent moon peering down on him. In the van, Haz’s shoulders slumped and his mouth stretched into a yawn.

The limo will be here soon. Be patient.

In the distance, a vehicle with blazing headlights approached. Tom’s pulse raced. But it was only a taxi.

An hour passed. A large rat skittered across the road before disappearing behind a neighbour’s skip. Bored and cold, Tom fetched his tobacco and a blanket from inside. He stopped off in the kitchen for a coffee. If I make a hot drink and roll a cigarette, the limo will arrive the second I sit down and light it.

Back outside, Tom’s plan to tempt fate failed. Soon he’d smoked the ciggy right down to the roach and necked the cold, scummy dregs of his coffee. Still no limo. He gritted his teeth and smoked another, then he started playing snake on his mobile phone.

Other than a stray cat prowling the street, the city slept. Even Hazeem had fallen asleep in the van. Tom tried to stay awake, but his eyes grew heavy, so he rested them.

He awoke to a powdery light. Dawn.

“I’m going home,” called Hazeem from the van before driving away.

Tom carried on waiting for another hour. He was cold, tired, hungry and infected by the earworm of some terrible disco tune. He picked up his empty coffee cup and launched it across the road. It smashed on the pavement and set off a chain of dogs barking across the neighbourhood.

He folded up the Venom Empire flyer and put it in his pocket. Maybe there wasn’t a rave tonight. I’ll ring Hazeem later and re-arrange for next week. It might take persistence, but he’d refuel his Metanox supply soon.

He crept inside, the moon’s glow through the upstairs window illuminating only a small square of the entrance hall. His breathing grew shallow as a soft murmur echoed around the house. For a moment, he wondered if someone was lurking in the darkness, but it was probably his imagination.

In his bedroom, he took out the Metanox bottle from his pocket and placed the bottle on the bedside cabinet. The ram’s skull on the label grinned at him as he undressed and climbed into bed, taunting him for his failure. Did Venom Empire somehow find out what they were planning? Impossible. Only himself, Hazeem and Snout-Nose Steve knew about the plans.

He reached out to switch off the lamp but suddenly froze. Wait a minute. There was someone else who knew.

“Good morning, Thomas,” said the Grandmaster. The jaws of the ram skull on the bottle mouthing the words. “You’re up late. Don’t worry, a couple of drops and you’ll be drifting into a deep, blissful sleep.”

Is he spying on me and reporting back to Venom Empire?

Hundreds of eyes prickled his skin. Could it be that Metanox was creating a narcotic information network between users? He imagined Venom Empire’s members laughing at him, with Metanox dripping down their cheeks. After applying a drop himself, he shut the bottle back inside the drawer and settled into bed.

*

Three weeks passed with no limo. On the third week, Hazeem gave up, but Tom continued his weekly vigil, swallowing the fear and disgust Venom Empire provoked. Eventually, the Metanox was going to run dry. His only option was to keep trying on his own. If the limo came, he’d somehow blag his way into the rave and score. Risky, but what was the alternative?

At 3 a.m. every Saturday morning, Tom perched himself on the front doorstep and waited, smoking cigarettes in the dark. The result was always the same. No limos. No Metanox. Only the rising sun tormenting him.

He scoured nightclubs and free parties, asking if anyone had heard of the drug. The answer was always no. He searched online but came up with nothing. One Friday, he let the number ring out, disobeying the instructions to leave two rings then hang up. Nobody answered, and an automated voice told him his call couldn’t be connected. He waited all night for the limo in vain.

One Friday evening, out of the blue, Hazeem knocked on his door.

“Haz, I thought you’d given up.”

“I’m still interested. But chasing limos won’t work.” He smiled. “I’ve got a better idea.”

*

Miss Kathy Forrester arrived early for her shift at Elixium Pharmaceuticals. The school kids on the back seat of the bus laughed at her as usual, calling her the ‘white witch’ but she didn’t care. She refused to colour her long-flowing grey hair and dressed in Celtic-style clothing. Today, she wore a burgundy georgette dress with wide sleeves and embroidered vines depicting the tree of life. The beautiful ritual garment floated softly against her skin.

After unlocking the door of the Maple Building, she deactivated the bleeping security alarm and took her seat behind the reception desk. After she’d logged on to the computer, she downloaded her favourite podcast from Red Dragon Media. On the webpage, she smiled at the picture of Ronald Sykes in his nylon shell suit. He had long black hair fastened into a man-bun and a thick handlebar moustache. Kathy rested her cheek on her palm and sighed.

She usually waited until her lunch break to listen to the podcast through earphones. But this morning, unable to resist temptation, she double-clicked on the file and a familiar Scottish accent filled the air.

“This is Ron Sykes, broadcasting to you from the stronghold of the resistance! Yes, my friends, we’re waging war against the New World Order!”

He’s so intelligent. If only more people listened. Letter opener in hand, she set to work on the day’s post.

“Everyone’s arguing with each other,” said Ronald. “It’s the communists! It’s the Jews! It’s the Chinese! It’s the freemasons! It’s the Royals! It’s the illuminati! Well, I’m here to tell you, my friend, it’s all of them. All of them, together! A global elite who want us on our knees. They’re gonna crash the economy, steal everything and make us dependent on them! They work by stealth, dumbing down the education system and shipping all the manufacturing overseas. They start phony wars and send your kids off to die, but not their own. Oh no! They live like kings while the rest of us eat genetically modified crap!”

Kathy smiled, Ronald’s ranting inspired her. You tell ’em, Ron.

“We have to fight back! We have to rise against the globalist scum! But Ron, you may ask, how can I spread the message to my friends and family? They call me a conspiracy theorist. They think I’m crackers. Well, it’s too bad, my friend. It’s almost impossible to wake the brainwashed sheeple. This is all part of the great plan and I’m gonna tell you exactly how it’s done. Filthy propaganda and demonic vibrations! It’s in the air all around us. It’s transmitted through wireless internet and mobile phone masts! They bombard our minds with negative thought-oscillations. They fry our brains until we can’t tell lies from truth!”

Kathy closed her eyes. She imagined Ron’s voice blowing the pesky oscillations away like dust. She tried very hard to keep her own inner energy in perfect alignment. In the evenings, she ate nettle soup and listened to Ron Sykes’ podcasts. Then before bed, she performed crystal healing meditations in the garden by the light of the moon.

“The negative energy is all around us. They’re bombarding our minds, folks! They target the root chakra—the focal point at the base of the spine—where all energy begins and ends. Yes, everyone needs their rectal energy realigning! That’s my mission, to realign your rectal energy! We’re on the march! We’re fighting back against the New World Order. We’re—”

Kathy turned off the podcast as Dr Michael Frost walked through the door; a tall man with greying hair and glasses. It was 7 a.m.

“Good morning, Kathy.”

“Good morning, Mike.”

She smiled and admitted him into the academic offices using the security console, then left her desk to prepare the waiting room. She unlocked the door and felt a cold chill. Silly me. I left the window open last night. The curtains billowed in the chilly morning breeze. She entered the dimly lit room, and the door slammed shut behind her.

Suddenly, an arm hooked around her neck and clasped her, taking her breath away. She gasped and spluttered.

“If you scream, we’re going to kill you,” said a deep male voice. The strong muscular arm held her tight, restricting her breathing.

A second intruder lurched out of the dark corner of the room towards her. She tried to kick him as he came close.

“Stop struggling,” whispered the man who restrained her. He dragged her across the room and forced her down on a chair. The second man drew close, duct tape at the ready. She felt the strong tape wrapping around her left lower calf and then the right. Were they going to torture her?

“I’m taking my arm away now,” murmured the man who restrained her. “Make a sound and I’ll slice you up like a fillet steak.”

She trembled within the grip.

All at once, the intruder released her, and she coughed, gasping for air. The next thing she knew, there was tape across her mouth. She sobbed, but the intruders showed no mercy. They taped her wrists together, and then, to fix her to the chair, wrapped tape around her chest. They’d ruin her beautiful dress!

Kathy glimpsed the intruders by the light of the window. The man who had held her was tall and stocky and dressed in black. The other man was shorter and lean. Both covered their faces with balaclavas. They hurried out of the waiting room.

Now alone, tears flowed down Kathy’s cheeks. My rectal energy is going to be so out of whack after this!

She struggled against the tape binding her to the chair. If she shook her shoulders, she moved a millimetre at most in either direction. Her feet would not move at all. She could jiggle her fingertips, but not enough to clutch at the tape binding her wrists together.

Locks of her long grey hair—which the intruders caught between the tape—obscured her view, but she could see the open window and the phone on the table beside the Egyptian papyrus plant.

She continued to shake her shoulders back and forth, trying to wriggle loose.

*

With his face covered by a balaclava, Tom followed Hazeem into the atrium of Elixium’s maple building. He swallowed, trying to quell the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Their treatment of the receptionist disgusted him; they must have scared the living shit out of her. They wanted to break in at night, but they’d set off the security alarms which fed through to the police station. So instead, they planned their assault around the receptionist’s arrival—she deactivated the alarms around 7 a.m., which would allow them an hour before the rest of the workforce showed up en masse. Hazeem convinced him that nobody would get hurt; they’d tie up the receptionist and she’d soon be found. Tom hated himself for agreeing to the plan, but it was worth it for Metanox.

While Hazeem bolted the front door, Tom clambered behind the reception desk. Thankfully, he didn’t have to contend with Miss Gehrmann or that jobs worth fire marshal this time. He pressed the green button on the console and the reinforced glass security door opened automatically.

“Go, go, go!” shouted Hazeem.

Tom sprinted into the secure area, along the vestibule and headed for the lifts. He hammered his fist on the down button. Time was against them. Half an hour. And they needed to pass two security gates, find the Metanox and escape.

Reaching the mezzanine, the lift opened, revealing a long corridor, dark except for a segment of light in the distance. The light emanated from the glazed panel of an office door. They crept closer. Through the panel, Tom saw Dr Frost leafing through a pile of papers, taking occasional sips of his coffee. He looked old and timid. Let’s hope he doesn’t have heart trouble, thought Tom.

Hazeem pulled out his knife. “You ready?” he asked, the whites of his eyes exposed.

Tom nodded, his guts cartwheeling. He clutched the duct tape in his pocket, ready to restrain the hostage.

Hazeem’s gloved hand gripped the door handle. He counted down from three in a whisper and then they burst in. The clamour jolted Dr Frost. The coffee cup slipped from his trembling hands and smashed on the floor.

“Keep quiet,” hissed Hazeem, grabbing the doctor by the collar of his shirt and pulling him off the chair. “Where’s the Metanox?”

Dr Frost gawped at him and gulped. A tropical fish tank bubbled soothingly nearby; the rainbow and butterfly fish swam around, oblivious.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Dr Frost.

“Where’s your badge?” asked Hazeem.

“It’s in my… Pocket.”

Tom scurried beside Hazeem and patted down the poor man’s trouser pockets. On the right side, he found a security pass attached to a lanyard.

“Should we fix him to the chair?” asked Tom.

“No,” said Hazeem. “He’s coming with us.”

*

Kathy struggled to break free; she shook her shoulders but failed to loosen the bonds. The phone on her desk in the atrium was ringing and someone was banging on the entrance door, no doubt an employee arriving early. She hoped they’d call security, fearful the intruders could come back at any moment. The window was still open, but the duct tape muffled her cries. Frustrated, she shook her shoulders aggressively. The chair wobbled and toppled over. She hit the floor and pain shot into her shoulder.

*

Tom and Hazeem rushed through the tunnel which led to Elixium’s Archives. The doctor stumbled on ahead, his wrists bound behind his back with duct tape. They’d used Dr Frost’s security pass to open the first gate and set it to stay open. Now they’d reached the second—a wall of metal beset by digital interfaces, cameras and jewel-like lights.

“What’s the code?” Tom asked the doctor, expecting to solve some Maths problems.

“It’s a retina scanner,” said Dr Frost. “We don’t use codes anymore.”

Tom approached the door. Embedded inside behind black glass, a robotic camera jittered in place.

“Open it,” shouted Hazeem, pushing Dr Frost forward. The camera scanned the doctor’s eyes, and the door opened, revealing the library. The vast hall brimmed with books, journals and papers.

“I don’t know what you expect to achieve,” said Dr Frost. “There’s no money down here.”

“Shut up,” hissed Hazeem.

“The Metanox was in a reading room at the end of the hall last time,” explained Tom.

“Go,” said Hazeem. “I’ll keep an eye on him.”

*

Grounded, but attached to the chair, Kathy gritted her teeth and wriggled. Her shoulder ached from the fall, but being on the floor allowed her to use her upper body to propel herself forward. She made for the window. It was painful and slow. Friction burned her skin, and sometimes the biting tape around her arms slipped against the carpet. Still, she persisted, moving forward little by little.

She’d planned to lean out of the window and call for help, but she’d never get the chair upright again. She almost gave up and admitted defeat, but then she thought about Ronald Sykes, her hero. If she closed her eyes, she could almost hear his smooth Scottish accent.

“Fight back, Kathy,” Ronald said in her mind. “Fight back against the oppressors.”

Bursting with renewed courage, she came up with a plan.

With great effort, she inched across the room. When she reached the table, she hooked her lower legs underneath. Writhing back and forth with her shoulders on the floor like a bug, she attempted to flip it over.

She winced as her knees banged against the wood. There were many failed attempts, but eventually, she succeeded. The plant slid off the table, and she heard a smash as the terracotta vase hit the floor.

The phone did not budge an inch, but she refused to give up. She wriggled towards the broken pottery. If she could position herself correctly, she could rub the tape binding her wrists against the shards.

*

Tom found nothing in the study at the end of the hall. He scoured the library, kicking down the doors of side-rooms and private studies. All the cupboards were full of papers and assorted junk, but some of the rooms had safes. He returned empty-handed to Hazeem and Dr Frost.

“Can’t find shit,” Tom panted. Time was running out. He looked at his watch. Twenty minutes before employees piled in.

Hazeem grabbed Dr Frost and squeezed him into a headlock. “Where’s the fucking Metanox?”

“I told you… I… Don’t know,” gasped Dr Frost. A wet mark appeared on the doctor’s trousers. Urine dripped on to the marbled floor of the library.

Hazeem released him. “Yuk.”

“He’s telling the truth,” said Tom. The poor man was too scared to lie.

“What if Elixium store the Metanox somewhere else now?” asked Hazeem.

“It’s down here,” said Tom. He could sense it. “Some of the reading rooms have safes. I bet there’s Metanox inside.”

“You know the codes?” Hazeem asked Dr Frost.

“No,” said the doctor. “But I have my phone with contacts in the company. Maybe one of them can help you.”

“And also call security on our asses,” said Hazeem.

“What else are we going to do?” cried Tom, desperate for Metanox.

Hazeem buried his head in his hands for a moment and then turned to him. “Get out of here.”

“But—”

“Start the van and bring it to the entrance. I’ll ring Fenwick, find the drug and then split. We’ll be gone before the cops show up.”

“I should stay,” said Tom.

“Go,” said Hazeem. “Fenwick will ring the pigs as soon as I hang up. I’m gonna need a quick getaway.”

He’s right, thought Tom. It’s game over if we’re caught. Prison sentences. Ten years each behind bars. Tom turned and fled the vault. He sprinted through the tunnel, thankfully the gates remained open. His legs were burning by the time he reached the offices, but he dared not stop to catch his breath. When he reached the lift, it had already been called and was heading down.

Shit.

He darted into the nearby stairwell as the lift doors pinged open. A familiar voice ebbed along the corridor—Reuben Fenwick’s nasally drawl. What the hell is he doing here?

He took out his phone and rang Hazeem’s mobile, but the number rang out. Could he create a diversion somehow? He composed a hasty text message to Hazeem, hoping the warning would allow his friend to hide and sneak out when the coast was clear. With a little luck, Hazeem might still escape with some Metanox. I’m fucking obsessed, Tom realised, as he climbed the stairs.

*

In the vault, Hazeem ripped the tape from Dr Frost’s wrists and ordered him to ring Reuben Fenwick’s mobile. Dr Frost nodded, took out his phone and dialled.

“Reuben, this is Michael Frost. There’s a situation down here—”

Hazeem snatched the phone before he could say another word. “Fenwick. I’ve got a gun to your doctor’s head. Where’s the Metanox?”

“Are you naturally dumb?” asked Reuben. “Or does it take great effort?”

“I have a gun to this man’s head. I won’t hesitate to shoot.”

“Go ahead. I never really liked Michael. My late father held him in high esteem, but I’m afraid I’ve always found him set in his ways. Not to mention his ghastly halitosis.”

“Stop screwing me around. Where’s the fucking Metanox?”

“But we’re having such a stimulating conversation! Do you have Thomas with you? I’d very much like to catch up with him.”

“Who?” said Hazeem, unnerved that Reuben mentioned Tom’s name.

“No Thomas? You must be a hired goon, then. Very well, I’ll tell you where you can find Metanox. After all, blowing poor Michael’s brains out would leave a frightful mess. Check the safe in room 16.”

Hazeem sprinted along the length of the library, still on the line with Reuben. He counted the numbers until he reached room 16.

“The safe code is 130399.”

“This better not be a trap,” said Hazeem. He was already panicking that Reuben had mentioned Tom’s name. They’d both have to go into hiding once they escaped with the drugs. He broke the door down in a single kick; the wood was old and brittle.

Inside, he found the floor safe, dialled in the code and opened the door. Hundreds of bottles of Metanox were stacked inside. He felt sure he’d made a fortune. He smiled.

“Metanox is worthless,” said Reuben. “It’s a dummy chemical.”

“What?”

“It’s a placebo. Go ahead and take some.”

“I don’t take drugs, I only sell them.”

“That’s a shame. You’ll find Metanox is a safe, non-addictive chemical. It’s distilled water.” Reuben sniggered.

“Bullshit.”

“I conned you,” said Reuben. “By the way, you should have hog-tied the receptionist prone on the floor. She alerted security some time ago. Now I’m afraid I must go. Cheerio.”

The line went dead, and Hazeem dropped the phone on the floor. He grabbed a bottle from the cupboard and unscrewed the cap. He’s bluffing, right? He sniffed the liquid but could detect no odour.

Memories flashed through his mind. He remembered his supplier’s confusion when he mentioned the drug. He remembered finding nothing on the internet. He remembered Snout-Nose Steve saying the drug did nothing for him. Tom was the only person who’d taken Metanox. Had Tom completely lost the plot?

No. It’s a ploy by Fenwick—he wants me to take the drug so the police can swoop in while I’m incapacitated. After all, why would Elixium keep distilled water inside a safe? He filled his pockets, his hands trembling and nausea intensifying. Let’s get the hell out of here.

Outside the reading room, leaning against a bookcase, he found Reuben Fenwick accompanied by two burly security guards. One of the guards carried a pistol.

Hazeem raised his hands. He was about to kneel down when a loud bang struck his ears, the noise reverberating through the vast library. His flesh rippled, absorbing shock waves from the blast. A burning pain seared through his torso, as if he’d been stabbed with a red hot poker. He looked down at his chest. He was bleeding.

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