Passing through the fifth and final checkpoint, you suppress a shutter as the magic dampening runes wash over you. It’s been over six months since you started working as a security guard, and having your magic stripped from you every night was just as unnatural and obtrusive as the first time. But it’s not like you can complain; non-magicals couldn’t feel the runes, after all. Confessing that you could…
You shake your head, strands of dyed-black hair falling in your eyes before you brush them back again. Tonight was your last night working here; after that, you’d never have to worry about the runes again.
You stride through the facility, your work boots echoing on the title floor. Your first stop is the supervisor’s room, where all the security gear was kept—Tasers, handcuffs, police batons, tranquilizer guns… Nothing lethal, unfortunately. But as you reached the room, you are stopped by Supervisor Rena.
“Oh, thank god!” Rena shoots out of her desk chair and grabs your hands in hers. She is crying, her eyes red and puffy behind her thick glasses. “I didn’t think anyone else was going to come in today, but when I saw you on the security cameras—”
“Slow down,” you say, pulling your hands from her grip. “What’s going on, why didn’t you think I was coming in? I’m on the schedule, right?”
“You are, you are, don’t worry about that!” She waves her hand through your concern. She sniffles. “It’s just… practically everyone else has called in sick! Apparently, some of the food had gone bad at the company picnic yesterday, and I just… so many people have come down with food poisoning!” She rubbed her eyes. “I’m the only one of the supervisors who isn’t bedridden right now—” Rena had celiac disease, you remember now—“or hasn’t lost their pass-key and, really Andrew, did you have to lose it this week!? And the only other security guard I could get was David from first shift, so he’s staying the night… I’m sorry to ask you this, but can you do overtime? I know you’re only second shift, but there’s literally no one for third, and I’m terrified of what would happen if that thing got out—”
You consider her words as Rena continued to babble herself halfway to a panic attack. So, the building was operating on a skeleton crew, less even… It would be just you, Rena, and David, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Though, David is a hulking form of pure muscle, with the combat skill to back it up. You’re no slouch, but… “Okay,” you agree, cutting Rena off.
“Oh, thank you so much!” Rena follows you to the lockers where you suit up with your equipment. Taser at the side, tranq gun on your leg, handcuffs on your belt. “I’ll make a special note in your file that you deserve a raise, I really will! But don’t worry, I was just about to call some of the staff I haven’t heard from yet. Maybe I can get someone to help you two!”
“You don’t have to do that,” you say with a glowing smile as you jam the sparking end of the Taser under Rena’s ribs.
The smile falls off your face as you watch her convulse and drop, seizing as the electricity went to work on her body. You don’t even wait for her to stop twitching before handcuffing her to the locker, away from the phone and computer. You tase her again for good measure, and she falls unconscious. Just for security’s sake, you gag her with her tie and search her body, pocketing her pass-key and cell phone.
That was easy enough. You roll your shoulders, cracking your neck. But there are bigger fish to fry.
Using the cameras in the supervisor’s room, you locate David on the third floor, walking outside the vivisection room. David is at least twice your size, and a head taller than you too. He’s also a skilled combatant, and while you are confident you could take him down, that doesn’t automatically ensure that you will. Without your magic, the tables tip a bit too far in his favor for your liking.
But there are always countermeasures.
You purposefully walk as loud as you can when you approach him, stomping a little and jangling the keys on your belt. David’s already staring in your direction as you came into view. “Hey, Dave!” You call out, picking up the pace until you’re jogging a little, as if excited to see him. “Man, I was so happy to hear you managed to avoid getting sick. It’s so weird that it hit everyone at the same time!”
David makes a grossed-out face. “Yeah; apparently there was something wrong with the hamburgers. I’m vegan, so I didn’t even touch it. You?”
“Allergic to red meat.” The lie rolls off your tongue. “Has there been any problems today so far?” You scoot towards the stairs and David follows, letting you take the lead.
“Nothing much. A few of the scientists came in to secure their experiments, but with so much of the staff missing, they couldn’t do much but go home.”
“That makes sense…” You stretch your arms above your head and let them fall, your right hand falling naturally on your thigh holster. “I would have come in early if I knew, trust me. But I only woke up like… two hours ago?” You fake a yawn. “See?”
David yawns in response. “I understand; the night shift makes you nocturnal, right? No hard feelings.”
You let David take the stairs down so he wouldn’t see you grin. “Yeah, no hard feelings.”
And you shoot him in the back.
Three tranquilizer darts strike David in a triangle formation. He stumbles, but doesn’t fall. When he whirls around, pain and betrayal naked on his face, you’re ready for him, still on the landing. You smile—you’re enjoying this, of course you are, after what they all did—as you kick him down the stairs.
The crash is loud in the empty building, and leaves David broken at the bottom, his limbs splayed, his tibia breaking through the skin. Blood pools under him. You stroll down to check his pulse. It’s there, but weak; the pain and the tranqs robbed him of consciousness, otherwise he would have tried to kill you by now. Not that you blame him. If not for the surprise betrayal, you wouldn’t beat him.
Well… if not for the betrayal and stairs, you suppose.
You handcuff David too, not that you expect him to be up and around anytime soon. Unlike Rena however, you handcuff him right wrist to left leg, behind his back, so he can be moved if someone finds him before he bleeds out. You doubt that will happen, but… it’s a small chance. About the same chance of you defeating David in a direct fight without magic, actually.
You were fair like that.
By the time you’re done, blood covers your hands and your white work shirt, more on purpose than accidental. You look best in red, after all. Your flight down to the Vault is unimpeded and soon you arrive at the imposing doors, over twice your height tall and wide, like a bank vault. Cells lined either side of the Vault, all empty of life but not contents, unfortunately. But you can’t do anything for them at the moment. After months of espionage and planning, your goal was finally in sight.
You place two pass-keys on the scanner in the center of the Vault—one Rena’s, the other belonging to Andrew, which you stole last night. Magic makes theft so much easier, but with the runes covering every inch of the Institute of Scientistic Discovery (a horrible name for a cult, really), you had to do things the old-fashioned way. So, if a Vault requires two supervisor pass-key’s to open, you had to get two supervisor pass-keys.
Honestly, this heist would have gone faster if you had known that from beginning, but you’d only been scheduled to guard the Vault a week ago.
The Vault door opens with a soft hiss, like it was air tight despite knowing that couldn’t be true. You carefully strip the guard uniform before entering, wearing a casual red shirt and jeans underneath. You don’t want to scare them.
Inside the Vault, a child curls up against the far wall, watching you enter and shaking. There is no furniture in the room, otherwise you assume the child would have hidden from you, and claw marks have been scratched into the walls. The child is emancipated, arms and legs stick-thin like a bug’s, and their hair is greasy, unwashed. Their hollow eyes bore into you with every step you take towards them.
They look like you.
Around their fragile wrists are heavy iron cuffs that dig into the bone. You fight to keep your face blank. The cuffs light up with anti-magic runes, as if this hell didn’t have enough to stop a god, let alone a child. There’s no sign of a keyhole and you resolve to remove them the moment you both escape.
You could imagine the reactions now; maybe Rena would finally be able to contact someone, maybe no one would learn what you have done until morning. But once they realize their number one experiment is missing...
Oh, the havoc it will cause.
Cautiously, you crouch, bringing yourself down to the child’s level. You smile; unlike the smiles you gave tonight, this one seems reassuring. You’ve practiced for hours to ensure it looks reassuring. “Hey, kiddo.” Your voice is soft, and it echoes in the empty room. “You don’t look too comfortable. Why don’t I get you out of here, okay?”
You aren’t sure if the child understands you. You don’t know how long they have been trapped here, how often the scientists you crave to murder speak around them, if they know English. But despite your fears,
The child nods.