It’s easy to feel powerless in life. To feel like there are no options left to us. Often that’s not entirely true though. Sometimes that feeling of powerlessness springs from nothing more than fear of options we’d rather not take.
Lying strapped to the operating table in the Brotherhood’s lair was a situation that was conducive to that sort of fear. For someone without “The Amazing Jin’s” training, it might have been an impossible scenario to escape from. Knowing what I did about slipping free from locks and restraints however meant that I knew escape was quite possible. I hesitated for a moment though because I also knew how much it was going to hurt.
Under the best of circumstances, it can be taxing and painful to slip out of a full body restraint like the one I was tied down with. Add to that, the fact that I had not one but two bullet wounds and it was a borderline miracle that I didn’t pass out before I managed to get my good hand free.
I managed not to scream either, though more than a few whimpers escaped my lips before I escaped the straps that held my good arm down. Fortunately no one was close enough to hear them and once I had one hand free undoing the rest of the straps was a piece of cake.
That left me free but dangerously lightheaded. I needed to rest and catch my breath, but I knew Smythe wasn’t going to be gone long. I pushed myself to my feet and started looking for inspiration for my next magic trick.
“I need to make a girl disappear.” I mused to myself. As a magician, I’d be kicked out of the clubhouse if I couldn’t manage that, though I could perhaps file an appeal due to the lack of material to work with. All I had were bloody clothes, bandages and various surgical implements.
“I can work with that.” I said as inspiration dawned on me.
I took a serious and deadly looking pair of scissor-like things from a nearby counter and chopped open the straps I’d escaped from. I then left the scissor-things prominently visible on the table I’d been lying on. That was step one: make it so no one felt the need to question how I’d gotten out of my restraints.
Step two was to take one of the bags of blood from the small refrigerator in the room and poke a hole in it. My exertions to escape the restraints had hurt like hell but I’d avoided tearing my wounds open enough to provide a theatrical amount of blood to work with. A few dozen drops from the bag though and I had plenty to leave a false trail of “footprints” out of the room. I made sure that the trail was visible outside the door into the hallway beyond but allowed the footprints to grow lighter over a dozen or so steps. The end result was even better than an arrow with the words “she went that way”.
The last step was a very simple one. I put on my shoes and left the door open.
I could have simply run for it, but, since I didn’t know where I was, the odds of running into more members of the Brotherhood seemed extremely high if I set off at random. Also, I knew I had only a minute or less to work with, which wasn’t much of a headstart on an escape, but plenty to work some misdirection.
Smythe came back just as I was stepping behind the door. I froze, breathless and waited to see if the illusion held.
“Wha..no, this is impossible.” he said, inches away on the other side of the open door. I heard him start to move and braced myself for a fight. With one arm and a moment of surprise I might have been able to take him, but probably not before he screamed for help. Fortunately that didn’t prove to be necessary.
“She’s escaped!” he screamed out and then turned in place. I couldn’t see what was happening but I could picture it easily enough. The first thing that had caught his attention was the open door. That had sent him into denial. He’d rushed to the room certain I’d still be on the table, but sick with fear that I wouldn’t be. From the doorway his fears had been confirmed and then the questions started. How had I gotten out? Obviously the scissor-things. They were right there and the straps were cut. Where was I? That had taken a moment longer but then he’d noticed the bloody footprints leading out of the room. I’d been hurt, so bloody footprints passed the plausibility check. They had to be mine, who else could they belong to? And they lead out into the hall, so no reason to search the room. I was clearly gone!
Presto. One disappearing girl.
Smythe left, screaming for people to stop me from reaching stairs that lead up to the exit. That he thought I was trying to escape by going up told me a number of things. First we were underground most likely. Second, the facility was big enough that he thought there was a chance I wasn’t already upstairs. Lastly, despite it being the path to the exit, “up” was the last direction I could move in for the time being.
Instead, I waited a moment, then crept out of operating room and headed down the hallway in the opposite direction that Smythe had gone.
The decor of the hallway and the rooms that I passed told me they’d brought me to a hospital, though apparently one that was not in use. In fact, it didn’t look like the hospital in been in use in a long time. Even my scant knowledge of the city was enough to turn up a likely candidate for where I was. Cutter’s Point Memorial.
It had been designed as a sprawling facility on a cliff outside of the city overlooking the ocean. Then people had figured out that in a state known for its earthquakes, building things on cliffs wasn’t all that bright of an idea. Parts of the hospital had collapsed in the first quake after it was built and the whole structure had been deemed unfit. The owners had gone bankrupt after that and with the land so precarious, no one else had stepped forward to take the facility off the city’s hands. At least not officially. The Brotherhood of the Dragon didn’t seem to mind the precarious position of it’s HQ.
At the end of the hallway, I found a doorway to stairs that led further down. Since the stairs seemed to be headed in the opposite direction of the exit, I took them reasoning that wherever they led would be the last place Smythe would think to look.
The hospital stairs ended on a landing with a door marked “boiler room”. A new set of stairs descended further down from there though. I kept descending and was surprised to see the last set of stairs open on a large, cavernous area.
The cavern was full of vehicles and machinery as well as dividers and holding pens. At the end near me, a tunnel wide enough for cars to drive through lead out of the cave. At the far end, there was a mouth which opened out over the ocean. The mouth was huge and looking at the rigging that lay in front of it I had a guess as to why.
In front of the cave’s mouth there was an elaborate structure that looked like it was built to wrap around a long balloon. Unless I missed my guess, that was it’s exact purpose too.
When we’d been shot at in Guy McIntyre’s apartment, our attackers had shown a steady spotlight in to illuminate us. McIntyre’s apartment was on the tallest building in the city though, so only a flying platform would have allowed them to get a spotlight that high and only a dirigible would be large enough and steady enough to support the spotlight and the three snipers.
While that was enlightening and answered some of my earlier questions, it didn’t do much to provide me with a means to escape. The presence of several dozen men in the cavern didn’t help either.
About a dozen of the men were sitting in the back of a truck that was being prepared to leave. Each of them were staring ahead blankly. A small number of other men were huddled in a cage about twenty feet away from me. Both of those groups of men were dressed in the kind of shabby clothes someone from the slums of Fairbanks Island wore. The rest of the men, the ones who were free and were roaming around performing various tasks were uniformed in black with various patches and insignia on them.
“Hey, you can’t do this!” one of the caged guys yelled out.
I did a double take. The voice was oddly familiar.
“Yeah, Boss Stone finds out about this he’s gonna kill everybody you ever met.” another one said.
I blinked in recognition. It was the guys from outside the diner that Way and I had stopped at!
The uniformed Brotherhood members were ignoring the men in the cage. The men who were in the truck were ignoring everything.
“Bring me the next subject!” a man in a doctor’s coat directed two of the armed members of the Brotherhood. Despite their earlier words, the men in the cage fell back in the face of the guards’ machine guns. Boss Stone might indeed get revenge for them but he was far away and the business end of the guard’s automatic weapons were much too close to argue with.
The guards extracted the guy who’d first called out from the cage and led him over to a small, sealed room.
“The Amazing Jin” had never had formal ninja training, but sneakiness mostly boils down to knowing how to read where people’s attention is and staying out of it. As a magician I had plenty of skill at that in this world, so sneaking up onto the roof of the makeshift “room” didn’t take me long. It wasn’t the most comfortable of perches, since the “roof” was nothing more than a few beams that ran over the four walls. On the upside, it did let me see what was going on easily enough.
“What are you gonna do to me?” the man from the diner’s parking lot said.
“Merely give you a small dose of medicine.” the doctor said as he picked up one several dozen syringes from the table beside him. It was filled with a disturbing, green fluid.
“I ain’t feeling sick.” the man said.
“This isn’t for physical illness.” the doctor said as he administered the injection into the man’s bicep.
“Ow.” the main said. “What’s it for then?”
“It’s for your mind. You sick, disorganized mind. Don’t worry it acts quickly. In fact you will feel it kicking in just about now.”
“Kicking in…wha…?” the man slurred the last word as the drug took control of him.
“Just like that.” the doctor said. “Now receive your instructions. Then next time you hear a noon bell ring, you will return to your home and burn it and all of the buildings around it to the ground. Am I clear?”
“Yes. Why?” the man asked.
“Because someone will come and buy your share of the land and you can move to a better place.” the doctor said. “When someone offers to buy the land from you, you will accept whatever price they offer, so long as it ends in thirteen cents. Do you understand.”
“Yes.” the man said.
My mind spun on what I’d heard. The Brotherhood had been trying to get control of Fairbanks Island through the development deal with Guy McIntyre. Apparently their backup plan was to raze it and then buy the land at fire sale prices. Either option left them in control of the city’s newest center of commerce which couldn’t be anything but disastrous.
Before the doctor could dismiss the man or call for the guard, I dropped down silently into the room behind him.
“Ow, what was that?” the doctor asked as I jabbed another one of the syringes into him. I dropped the syringe and wrapped my good hand around his mouth for a moment until he sagged into relaxation.
“Where’s the counteragent?” I asked him. No secret society in the world would skip developing a counteragent to their own mind control drugs.
“Over here.” the doctor said, his voice blurry as he pointed at a counter that contained a variety of vials on it.
“Administer it to him.” I told the doctor, indicating his former “patient”.
I watched him pick up a vial of blue liquid and and carefully fill a syringe with it. I looked at where he’d taken the vial from. Unfortunately it was the only one of its kind.
The counteragent did its work as fast as the original formula, thankfully.
“What happened?” the man from the diner said as the counteragent took effect.
“You were drugged.” I told him.
“Wait, you’re the magician girl? What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Long story. What happened to you and your friends?” I asked.
“Guys came by with some day labor, bunch of us jumped at it and then they brought us here. I don’t know nothing about nothing else.” he said
“We’ve got get you out of here.” I told him.
“And the boys too.” he said.
“Yeah, everyone.” I said, just as the truck outside started up and pulled away.
“Can you call them back?” I asked the doctor.
“No.” he said without inflection.
“Have any other trucks gone out?” I asked.
“Yes.” the doctor said.
“Twenty two.” the doctor said.
“Men?” I asked astounded.
“No. Trucks.” he answered.
At a dozen men in each truck, that meant a small army of arsonists were descending on Fairbanks Island.
Even if I got word to them, there was no chance the police would be able to stop that many hypnotized pyromaniacs. I looked at the clock on the wall. It was just before 11:00 a.m. I had less than an hour to figure out how to stop the Brotherhood or thousands of people were going to burn.