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Cut the Marker
“I tried to tell you Stan,” Eric said. “The other day, I tried to tell you. We had made contact with the underground. I wanted to bring you in, but then they took Charlotte. There was nothing I could do then, nothing we can do now.”
“I just left Charlotte at home this morning. She hasn’t been taken anywhere, by anyone.”
“Open your eyes. What the hell just happened in the street? Where do you think they were taking us?” Eric looked into Stan’s eyes for a moment then turned to Autumn. “I think we lost him.”
“Stan, do you remember the day Abel came to your apartment? His wife SK had been taken by the inspectors. Do you remember any of that?” Autumn searched Stan’s face.
“I don’t see it,” he said. Stan’s forehead scrunched up in thought as he dug through his mind. He couldn’t find a trail to the memories they mentioned. The past few days had slipped from his mind, like they had never happened. He could see it though, the blank space in his memories. If they hadn’t pushed him he would never have noticed.
“He’s been compromised.” The man from the passageway had joined them. “We caught him in the alley, day after he beat the life from an inspector.”
“You have me mistaken for someone else.” As the words slipped from his mouth Stan knew them to be wrong. He couldn’t bring the memory forward but the rage had flashed through him as the man spoke. He could feel the anger of the attack and then the fear when it was over. Orphaned emotions that lacked the memories to tie them into his waking mind.
“You don’t know it, don’t understand it, but they took your wife. Took her the day you spent with us, in this room,” the man said. “I didn’t think it was in you to run back but they took you and you paid the price for it. Now we need to move or we’re going to pay the price for it too. First the attack on the street and now you here, they know where we are.”
New thoughts flooded Stan’s mind. Memories spiderwebbed in his mind and filled the gaps of his lost memories. They made no sense, he could see that as he sifted through them but still he wanted to believe them. Something about them compelled him to accept the truth of these thoughts. “We need to go back,” he said. “They’ve come to help.”
The man pulled a small black device from his trousers’ pocket. After he tapped the screen a couple times he waved it near the back of Stan’s head. “He’s been compromised,” the man said. “Confirmed. We have to go, now. But he can’t come with us like this.”
“What can we do?” Autumn said.
He drew a bowie knife while his gaze rested on Stan. “We have to cut it out.”
“Get away from me,” Stan said as he raised his arms to shield himself and backed away from the knife.
“Don’t make this difficult. It’s either cut it out or we have to end you. Can’t leave you wandering around down here with a marker.”
“Marker?” Eric said.
The man clenched Stan’s wrist with his free hand. “This won’t hurt much. It has to happen, nothing to be done about it. This area of the tunnels is lost already. No telling how long they have been looking through to this room.”
Stan struggled against the iron grip but couldn’t break it. The invasive thoughts in his head drove him to fight back, fight like his survival depended on breaking free.
Eric watched the exchange from the side, his gaze switching between the others. He bit his lower lip in thought. His inaction gave Stan a moment to renew his fight for freedom.
Stan swung his arm free, though it was short lived. The man choked up in the space and wrapped his arm tight around Stan’s free arm. In a blur of motion the knife flashed and sliced into the skin of Stan’s neck. The razor sharp blade cut the flesh before the pain registered in Stan’s mind. The man’s next movement brought Stan face first into the table with his arm in a lock that he couldn’t break.
Fire burned through his neck as the man’s fingers delved into the cut in the back of his neck. The pain seared down to the souls of his feet as the fingers probed and wiggled against the meat. Eric advanced. He couldn’t allow this to continue, this assault of his friend. But the man’s fingers pulled away from Stan’s neck before Eric could do anything to stop him. He dropped a small chunk of metal on the table in front of them. A red diode blinked like an eye, blinked until the man slammed the butt of his knife into it. The circuitry sparked and then went dark.
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