You've Come A Long Way, Baby Chapter 9

By Imrahil

“Johno no likey!” A behemoth of a man, obviously one grossly enhanced by organic implants, sprung out of a dark side alley where Alex had stopped his bike to survey his surroundings. An arm nearly twice the thickness of the officer’s torso neatly slapped him aside and into the hard obsidian wall of a nearby warehouse.

“Johno find flybike! Johno win!” Alex staggered to his feet, rubbing his head, and saw his attacker fingering the police bike, smoothing it over with its enormous palms. Alex’s eyes flared as the adrenaline pumped through his brain. He looked down at his fists, and then at the huge, misshapen mutant, and suddenly let out a scream of anger.

“Get the HELL AWAY!”

He ran towards the monstrosity with deliberate, almost cat-like strides, and suddenly jumped into the air. He felt his foot connect with the hard muscle of the mutant’s thick neck. A loud crack was audible, and Alex triumphantly somersaulted backward, having defeated his foe.

“Johno kill you now!” The huge, twelve-foot-tall monster pulled itself off the ground, and shambled with an almost uncanny speed towards where the dumbfounded Alex was crouching. Alex reacted quickly to the unexpected attack, neatly jumping out of the creature’s reach.

The officer’s agility was his only advantage, and it was a good one. Punks, pimps, and other criminals were drawn to the amazing fight scene, as Alex somersaulted and danced around his oversized foe, landing deafening punch after punch into the creature’s kidneys.

“Johno…Johno…” The mutant swung aimlessly from left to right at the police officer, taking Alex’s brutal attacks in full after every failed punch. The creature began to run out of breath and tire itself out quite quickly, mostly due to its own over-exertion, and not Alex’s powerful blows. And even though huge purple and black spots began to appear on Johno’s torso, it was apparent Alex was not hurting the mutant at all. Finally, however, the mutant withdrew.

“Johno…leave now…kill later…” It stumbled off into the dark, gasping for breath.

“Yeah…run you freak…” Alex crouched down, panting. The creature hadn’t touched him, but he was exhausted. Fortunately, that didn’t last long. The nanites in his bloodstream quickly fixed that problem. Alex stood up, stretched, and laughed with new vitality. The criminal onlookers were shocked at first, but soon left, realizing that there was almost no chance of taking the police officer’s vehicle.

Alex hopped on his bike, astonished at the degree of degradation this part of the world was in. He decided he had seen enough danger that night. After all, police officers traveling through the Darkscape were usually killed in their first five minutes. Alex thought he had done pretty well. He turned his bike around to leave, only to hear the scream of a woman come from only a few yards away.

Alex revved the bike and took off down a dark alley in the direction of the scream. Alex jumped a chain link fence and landed directly behind a group of three men.

“Slit ‘er throat, and give ‘er to me. I want ‘er while she’s still a little warm,” an almost anorexic being said in the most disturbing tone of voice Alex had ever heard.

Alex saw another strange man eject a thin blade from the loose skin on top of his hand. “I’m second, then.”

“Stop what you are doing, now!” Alex spoke with a powerful, controlled voice, but inside, his rage was screaming to be let out.

The three ghastly men turned around quickly. They each had hideous metal rods and similar apparatus protruding from their loose skin. Each was virtually hairless, and blue veins were spread across their arms and bald heads. Their eyes were sunken deep in their sockets, and their countenances were those of pure despair.

The one with the knife threw the poor girl down in a pile of detritus, and spoke in a gravelly voice.

“A cop? Here in Oldtown? Most cops don’t last five minutes here, pal.” A wide, lipless grin spread across his morbid face.

“You are all…under arrest. Put down your weapon and come with me,” Alex crossed his arms, trying to look impressive, even though he was quite shaken by the scene.

The creature paused for a moment, seemingly in thought. Then he narrowed his eyes and looked straight into Alex’s eyes, causing the policeman to shudder. “Kill him. I want his pretty face to hang around my belt.”

Alex hadn’t noticed the collection of human skin that hung around the knifer’s waste, and the sight of it infuriated him. The two weaponless men jumped at the officer. Alex kicked one in the chest, flinging him to the other side of the alley. He broke the other’s neck with one powerful punch.

The knifer lunged at Alex with the sharp blade, only to find himself flying through the air. Alex heard the sickening sound of bone crushing against hard obsidian from behind him in the dark alley, and he shuddered again. He ran over to where the abused girl had been thrown, and picked her up. Her clothes had been pretty much ripped to pieces, and her face was covered with blood and bruises. Alex took off his armor, and the black and blue shirt underneath. He wrapped the girl up in the shirt, picked her and his armor up, and got back on his bike.

He flew his bike in the air towards home, seven miles straight up. He held the trembling girl in his arms the entire way, looking at her battered face. She opened her eyes and looked up at Alex, with an expression so full of love, that Alex actually felt content for a moment.

“You’re going to be fine; can you speak?”


“Which layer do you belong to?”

“The…the Darkscape.”

“…I can’t take you back there. We’re going to the Law Center, and I’m going to fix you up, okay?”

She nodded silently, and pressed herself closer into Alex’s chest.

* * *

Alex shot up from the bed, covered in sweat. The old memories were painful, to say the least. He had had the dream before, but never so vividly. It was as if he had lived it a second time.

He sat there for a moment, his head in his hands. He looked down at his arm, and he pulled the bandage off a little. The wound had completely healed. He ripped the entire bandage off with one quick pull, leaving the skin underneath raw. He watched the raw skin quickly heal itself, and smiled. He had survived the virus again, without infection.

“Time?” he asked aloud. The wall in front of him displayed the number ‘647’, and Alex flinched. He could never remember to set his alarm.

Alex jumped out of the tiny bed and opened a panel containing his black and blue shirt and pants, which were now completely clean and repaired. He slipped them on and pulled his armor off the wall where he had thrown it the night before. He slapped the arm and leg pieces on, and threw the torso piece over his head.

The soft lights of the hallways gleamed off the armor as he jogged through the empty corridors. He knew it was impossible to get to the Upper Wing in ten minutes through the halls, but he broke into a fast run anyway.

It was strange to see the halls so empty, but most of the officers had already left for their street shifts an hour ago. Alex thought of this as a blessing, however, and the absence of hall traffic allowed him to run even faster.

Much later, Alex arrived at the double door entrance of the Upper Wing. He placed his palm on the door, and was almost surprised when it opened for him. He was expected, indeed, despite his lateness.

The Upper Wing was much different than the rest of the building, basically due to the fact that the Upper Wing consisted mostly of executive offices instead of training halls. It was almost pleasant: green plants were in every corner; the ground was covered with large, elaborate rugs; and soft music drifted through the halls.

Alex jogged to Jacob Lehns’ suite only a little ways down one hall, and placed his palm on the door. It slid open in front of him, and Alex was shocked at the scene before him. Jacob was sitting at his desk in the shadows, leaning back in his chair, a smoke trail drifting up from his tiny cigarette. Behind Jacob were the elaborate complexities of the Law Layer. Huge black structures twisted around each other, stretching upwards. Millions of lights dotted the dark faces of the buildings, and just as many vehicles roared through the air, each with a specific destination.

“Quite a view, hmmm? Officer, I’d like you to meet Assistant Commissioner Graham, and Dr. Kletch, from the labs. Gentlemen, this is the man we speak of. Come sit down, officer.” Jacob leaned out of the shadows, smiling widely.

Two of the three chairs in front of Jacob’s desk swung around, revealing the grim face of the balding Assistant Commissioner, and the smiling face of the young doctor. Alex nodded to each of them and walked to the chair. His footsteps echoed off the marble floor, adding to the awkward silence in the room as the three men stared at Alex. The police officer sat down in the leather chair to the left of the other two men, and calmly looked at Jacob.

After a few more minutes of puzzling silence, the doctor spoke.

“S-s-so, Mr. Lehns tells us y-y-you were the one who stopped the r-r-runner in the Darkscape.” His ridiculous stuttering irritated Alex almost to the point of ignoring him, but the officer answered anyway.

“Yes, but I’m sure you’ve read the reports,” Alex answered solemnly.

“Quite r-r-right, my friend, b-b-b-but we would like to know, that is, w-w-we need to know—”

Jacob motioned for the doctor to be quiet, and spoke himself. “Officer – Alex – surely you have not heard the full story behind the runner you apprehended last night. You see, he was an associate of Dr. Kletch here; his name was Richards. Richards and Kletch were working on a very important project, one which Richards stole the prototype of last night. He killed a guard in the process, in order to steal a police vehicle, but on his way down through the layers, you followed him, after finding the dead guard and seeing the fleeing vehicle. You disabled his bike from afar, and broke after him on foot after crashing your own bike. The rest you know well, of course.”

“The thing is, you see, it that we need to know exactly how many shots were fired at you,” the AC added.

“Three, sir.”

“S-s-see! It is as I said!” the doctor yelled enigmatically.

“Shut up for a moment, will ya, Kletch?” the AC said, speaking through his teeth. “Are you positive, Officer?”

“Of course.” Alex was becoming more and more intrigued, but he didn’t show his curiosity.

The three men exchanged knowing glances, and Jacob nodded.

“You should be dead, Alex. You should be dead.” Jacob took his cigarette from his mouth and threw it in a small hole in his desk.

“You see, Officer, there were 900 bullet holes found in the walls and surrounding crates. And each one was made by the one of three bullets.” The AC lowered his head as he said this. “Doc?”

“Y-y-yes, Richards stole a new weapon under development here, a sort of ‘never-miss’ type of thing. Fire o-o-one b-b-bullet, and you get three hundred hits to the target. S-s-sort of a warping of the space-time continuum; d-d-definitely hush-hush stuff.”

“From where you were standing, and from where Richards fired the weapon; everything points to a zero percent survival rate. Do you remember anything happening after he fired the weapon?” Jacob asked.

“Not really. His first shot was far too high, and his second and third shots were too far to the left to hit me. I rolled forward, just in case, but there was no way those shots could have hit me.” Alex was quite perplexed.

“Doc?” Jacob asked, in an exhausted voice.

“I suppose the p-p-prototype was not as fine-tuned as I thought. Y-y-you were right.” The doctor looked upset.

“Well, thank you, Kletch. You may leave, now.” Jacob hit a button under his desk, and the door swung open.

Kletch stood up. “Send me the prototype after it done in Evidence, please, Mr. Lehns.”

“Right,” Jacob answered.

Kletch left the room, and the door closed shut behind him.

“Problem is, the prototype is gone. We’ve searched the warehouse thoroughly, but it’s not there. You said he didn’t have it when you found him?”

“No sir. His weapon was nowhere near him.” Alex was beginning to realize what Jacob was driving at. “Do you believe the runner had an accomplice, sir?”

“Hmm, well, since you’ve brought it up. My friend the AC here, seems to want to implicate you for the crime, since you were the only other one in the warehouse. Fortunately, your reports speak differently.” Jacob pointed to the tiny digital camera embedded in Alex’s armor on his left shoulder.

“Readings from your camera also prove that there was no one else inside the warehouse but you and the runner. We are at quite a roadblock, Alex. The weapon is not in the warehouse; there was no one in the warehouse but an officer and a runner; and you miraculously survived where no one else could. Unfortunately, everything points at you,” Jacob said solemnly.

“Umm, sir. Not anymore. This is what I needed to talk to you about.” Graham handed a small digital tablet to Jacob. Jacob read it over.

“It says here that your camera is functioning perfectly, Officer. That was the only thing that could have convicted you, Alex.”

“So if it was not malfunctioning last night, we have to take the readings from the camera seriously, sir,” the AC stated.

“Right. According to your equipment, the gun disappears from the warehouse shortly after you shot the runner. There’s no evidence of teleportation, or spacial distortion.”

“Hold on; when did you gather these readings from my suit?” Alex felt like his privacy was being violated.

“There’s a direct link from the camera in your suit to the magistrate’s office; didn’t you know that?” The AC snickered and crossed his legs.

“Never mind that,” Jacob continued. “The fact remains: no one has performed this admirably in the Darkscape before. I’m upgrading your duties to…lieutenant. Good job, Lieutenant, and thanks for coming, despite your…infection. I will be in touch.”

The two shook hands after Jacob had punched a few buttons on the panel embedded in his desk. Alex also shook hands with the AC, and quickly left the room. His mind was still spinning from how quickly the conversation had changed from an interrogation to a promotion. He had almost been named the accomplice of Dr. Richards!

Alex walked down the hall, but stopped when he heard Jacob’s door open behind him.

“Lieutenant! Take a day off. You deserve it.” Jacob smiled when Alex turned around and then shut the door.

Alex stood there for a moment, quite shocked. He had never had a day off; ever. Alex returned to his small room, only to find a notice of residential transfer displayed on his door.

“I’ve been moved to a larger room. Unbelievable.” Alex took a lift up a few floors and walked down a familiar-looking corridor to a familiar-looking door. It certainly looked the same. He held his thumb up in front of the small black panel in the doorframe and smiled as the door slid open. The room was twice as large as his old one. He had a double bed now, and a living space that consisted of two chairs, a couch, and a small table.

Alex walked in, admiring his new surroundings. He never knew lieutenants had it so easy. The computer mounted in the table was much larger than the old one he was used to, and it came to life immediately when Alex sat down in front of it.

“No new messages, sir.” A lovely feminine voice spoke as he sunk into the comfortable couch. “Would you like to hear a musical selection, sir?”

“Er, no, thank you, I’m fine.” Alex almost passed out. He saw through the open door of his bathroom, a small window showing the dark world outside. A window!

Alex sat sleepily on the couch, taking in his new lifestyle. Suddenly, the computer screen flickered to life with the still image of a gorgeous woman.

“Incoming message from Officer Katherine Durst,” the computer voice said sweetly.

The still image switched to a live video feed from the officer’s bike.

“Where are you, Alex? I heard your demotion was cancelled. Shouldn’t you be here?”

“Guess what, Kat? You’re speaking to a lieutenant, now,” Alex said slyly with an eyebrow raised.

“The hell? You got promoted? How the – I thought the magistrate hated you!”

“Promotion came in from the Upper Wing. Old Mort can’t do anything about it. So how’s it going out there, all by your lonesome?”

The dark-haired woman flashed an inappropriate hand gesture at Alex and the video feed fizzled out. Alex laughed out loud.

“Incoming message from Division Magistrate Morton Burke,” the computer voice suddenly chimed.

The haggard face of the bald man appeared on the screen.

“What are ya doing, laying around at home for! Get yer ass to the Cellars! Haven’t you checked yer duties for this week, ‘lieutenant’?” the old man screamed.

“I have a day off today, sir.”

“Not anymore. I may not be able to revoke yer promotion, but I can sure as hell revoke yer ‘day off’. Now get to work!” The man’s image disappeared.

Alex shook his head and asked the computer to display his duties for the week. Mort had managed to get him into the Cellars every day. Alex shrugged and left his room. He took the lift two miles down into the heart of the Law Center and entered the well-lit front office of the Cellars. The warden was waiting for him.

“Lieutenant? Yes, I need you to fill this out, go over these, and fill all of this out; thanks. I’ve got the day off!” The small man pranced out of the room and into the lift after handing a huge stack of papers to Alex.

Alex sat down in the only desk in the small room and set the papers down. The office was no larger than Alex’s old room. There were only two doors: one leading to prison cells, the other leading to the lift. Alex began to realize how terrible his luck was, and began to fill out the excruciatingly tedious paperwork.

Three hours passed, and Alex set the finished stack of papers in the corner of the desk, triumphantly. Of course, now there was absolutely nothing to do. Alex shrugged and waved his palm in front of the door leading to the prison cells. The heavy door grumbled open, and closed behind him once he walked in.

A long, drab hallway, seemingly with no end, stretched out in front of the police officer. Many doors with small glass windows lined the walls. Alex looked up and saw balcony after balcony leading forever upwards. Millions of cells must have existed there. Alex began to look into the small windows at the denizens of the large cells. Most on the bottom floor cells were empty, but every once in a while, Alex spotted a hideous mutant or another repulsive creature sitting in one of the cells’ corners. There were even times when he saw more than one criminals packed into one cell, huddled in a giant, pathetic mass.

Alex took a lift up to the second prison floor – there were lifts all over the complex – and strolled down the hall, peering into each cell. After a looking in a few cells, he noticed a little computer screen on the right of each door. The crimes of the prison occupants were listed on the outside, along with the controls for opening and closing the door.

Strangely enough, each person in each cell had been convicted for lesser crimes, such as minor vandalism, or littering. Alex looked at the occupants of the cells, and they all looked as if they had come from the Darkscape. Unkempt punks and terrifying beasts roamed around their cells, some clawing insanely at the walls and doors. Alex decided that however insignificant their crime might have been, they probably needed to be in the prison anyway.

It was not long before Alex came upon a cell in which there were four occupants. The black screen beside the door read ‘Loitering/Resisting Arrest’. Alex looked inside the room, only to come face to face with an extremely attractive blonde girl.


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