This isn’t my bed.
Francisco winced and turned over as the light turned on overhead. He reached to the lamp on the bedside table to turn it off, but his hand only met empty air. He grunted and forced his drowsy eyes halfway open to find the switch, but woke with a start when he realized not only his lamp was missing, but his whole bedside table.
Have I been robbed?
His eyes burned at being opened so suddenly, which intensified the pounding at the base of his skull. He covered his face with his hands and bit his lip in hopes that his head would settle. His hands slid down his face, and he sighed, opening his eyes to survey his surroundings. He leapt from his bed in shock.
This isn’t my room.
He gripped his temple and swayed at the sudden movement, but quickly steadied himself. Something was very wrong.
He was in…some sort of room. Though it had a bed, it certainly couldn’t be called a bedroom. Blue commercial carpeting, white ceiling panels, and off-white walls. It looked more like an office that had been converted into a makeshift sleeping area.
He took quick inventory of himself. He was wearing the same gray t-shirt and dark blue jeans as he remembered putting on yesterday. As far as his body went, nothing seemed to be injured. What had happened last night?
Out with his friends to Chaci’s after work. Stayed for a few hours. Had a drink, but nowhere near enough to induce a hangover. Promised to video call his sister that evening, so left around eight. But everything after that was blank. He furrowed his brow, but try as he might, he couldn’t remember anything after leaving the bar.
What time was it?
He reached into his pocket for his phone, but groaned in frustration when he found his pockets empty. The exterior window was boarded shut, and the only light he could see came from the pale white ceiling light that bathed his room. He scanned the room one last time for any sort of clue of where he was.
A movement in the corner of the ceiling of the room caught his eyes. His heart stopped. A security camera, and it definitely moved.
What was going on?
Now with the suspicion that he was being watched, Francisco started to the door at the other side of the room, keeping an eye on the camera with his peripheral vision. It didn’t move again.
Whatever was happening, he was sure there was some sort of explanation.
He grabbed the door handle and turned, but it didn’t budge.
An icy sense of dread wormed its way down his spine, and he began to hyperventilate.
No. Something like this couldn’t have happened to him. Getting kidnapped happens to other people. It’s something you read about in the news and click your tongue at while saying ‘shame’.
He gripped the handle with both hands and turned with all his strength, rattling it back and forth along the little give it did have, but to no avail.
He turned from the door and studied his surroundings with a newfound urgency. Aside from the bed there was a dresser and a small desk with a lamp, but the room was otherwise empty. He went to the dresser and opened the drawers. Clothes. He didn’t recognize any of them. He took out a blue shirt. Thick material, no design. Probably meant for rugged work. The rest of the shirts were of a similar make.
The drawer below had thick work jeans and socks, and on the far side of the dresser on the floor sat black steel toed boots. Whatever this place was, it seemed to serve people who dealt with intense manual labor.
Francisco looked at his bare feet. If he really was in a dangerous situation he needed to be ready for action at a moment’s notice. He took out a pair of socks and studied them carefully. They seemed brand new, and didn’t seem to be hiding anything suspicious, so he slipped them on, and took the boots, grinding his teeth in nervous agitation when they fit perfectly.
He took out a shirt again and looked at the size to confirm his paranoid suspicion. All large, athletic fit. His size. The jeans. 32W x 32L. His size. His heart started pounding again. Was this some sort of joke? Had he been kidnapped and taken to a foreign country to work in the mines or something?
Before he could think any further, he heard a loud clack and he turned back to see the door had opened, a blond muscled man in a black tank top and camo pants standing on the other side. He didn’t say a word, just raised his hand and jabbed his thumb over his shoulder to the room beyond.
Francisco didn’t move. The man had a pistol and a large knife strapped to his belt.
“Where am I?” His voice cracked as he spoke for the first time that day.
The man crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. “Out,” was all he said in a thick accent that Francisco couldn’t identify.
Francisco hesitated for a moment longer, weighing his options. The man was very muscular, but it wasn’t like he himself was a scrawny man, though he had never thought his days spent pumping iron at the gym would be tested in a situation like this. No. Fighting was out of the question. The man was armed.
“Out. Now.” The man repeated. He continued to glare at Francisco, and he he thought it would be in his best interest to comply. He walked to the door, and squeezed past the bulky stranger, both not taking their eyes off of each other.
Once out of the room, Francisco put a small distance between himself and the man before scanning the new room. There was no question in his mind now. This place was an office of some sort, with this new room being the hub that led to smaller offices, of which is room was one. No less than a dozen other doors stretched along the same wall where he had just come from, each with a pale spot at eye level where nameplates had once been fixed. He wondered if others were in the other rooms as well.
Francisco flinched as the man spoke from behind him. He turned to see him gesturing to a set of four black leather couches that sat in the center of the room facing each other in a square orientation. The man kept his finger pointed until Francisco moved to comply, and once he was seated, he walked to the next door, unlocked it, and opened it.
After a few moments, a nervous, wide-eyed young man that couldn’t have been older than twenty was led to the couch as well. One by one, the man opened the doors and led others to the couches, until several unknown people, each in different states of distress and terror sat looking at each other.
Francisco looked at each in turn. After the young man there was another Asian man, late forties, a young, freckled young woman with red hair, a skinny white man, a late teenage boy with glasses, a late teenage girl, a mid-thirties black man, a very muscular white man, a man with jet black hair, and a mid-twenties young woman. Eleven in all, including himself.
Each looked back and forth between each other and the man that had opened their doors. He paid them no mind, and took a remote from his pocket, turning on a flat screen TV that hung on the wall by the couches. It flashed to life, showing an image of a blank wall.
Their jail keeper crossed his arms, content to wait, so nobody said a word, leaving a silence broken only by the quiet sobs of a few of those on the couches.
After a moment, a shadow moved on the TV, and the torso of a man came into view, very close to the camera. He sat down in a chair just off-screen, so his head and upper torso was visible. Well, it would have been, but his face was purposely scrambled with static to retain anonymity.
“Good day, Captives.” The voice was lightly garbled using technical means, and seemed to come from speakers that were affixed in several points in the ceiling.
Francisco’s heart sank. The last word confirming what he and the others were no doubt thinking. They were here against their will, and would not be leaving anytime soon. Nobody spoke, and for a few moments, the group soaked in the words. After a few moments the man continued.
“I am Barnabas. I am your captor.”
“What is this?” The buff white man, crossing his arms. “Some sort of Saw shit?”
The bulky jailkeeper took out his and pointed it directly at the man’s head. The buff man’s eyes shot open and he shut his mouth. The young teenage girl screamed and cried. Several of the group began to tremble.
“There will be a time for questions,” Barnabas said. “In the meantime, do not interrupt again.”
The muscled white man nodded, and the jailkeeper put the gun away.
“You are all here because I have several tasks that need completing. You are the ones I have chosen to carry them out. Completing these tasks is not optional. If you fail to complete them, you will die.”
Francisco fought to keep calm, and he knew he wasn’t alone, as several gasps and sobs reverberated through the group at these words. He put his face in his hands and hung his head, listening intently.
“There is enough food and resources to last you three days. You will only receive more if you make satisfactory progress.” Barnabas paused for a moment before continuing. “This is not ‘Saw shit’. This is not a game. This is not a joke. Beyond your lives and freedom, there is no prize for succeeding. These tasks will be extremely difficult to accomplish, and each of you has been chosen for the skills that you bring to this team to maximize your chances of success. No, none of you are being punished, none of you have mysterious pasts connected to this place, and you would do wise not to follow in the steps of the previous team and waste precious time being skeptical of each other and trying to solve irrelevant conspiracy theories. Jeremy Hill.”
The young man that had come out after him started and fidgeted.
“You have been chosen for your stamina and running capabilities.”
Francisco looked at the young man. He was sweating, and obviously stressed.
Jeremy looked back at the screen and cleared his throat. “Um. Acknowledged.”
Barnabas continued. “Cheng Su. You have been chosen for your expertise in mechanical engineering. Acknowledge.”
The older Asian man looked around with wide eyes before slumping his shoulders. “Yes. Acknowledged.”
The freckled redhead began to tremble.
“You have been chosen for your adherence to the Wiccan religion. Acknowledge.”
Francisco raised an eyebrow. It seemed an odd for someone to be chosen based off of their religion, much less this one, but he kept quiet as she agreed with a squeak.
“Andrei Volkov, you have been chosen for your skills as a computer engineer and hacker. Acknowledge.”
Andrei kept a straight, neutral face. “Acknowledged.”
“Matthew Walker. You have been chosen for your training as a psychologist. Acknowledge.”
The black man set his jaw. “Acknowledged.”
“Jonathan Williams. You have been chosen for your strength and athleticism. Acknowledge.”
The buff white man that spoke up earlier narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, yeah.”
“Sofia Vasquez. You have been chosen for your expertise as a nurse. Acknowledge.”
The mid-twenties woman wiped a tear from her cheek. “Acknowledged.”
“Martin Jones. You have been chosen for your work as a chemist. Acknowledge.”
The black haired man sighed. “Acknowledged.”
“Michelle Olson. Felix Goldfeld.”
The two youngest members of the group looked up at the screen.
“You have been chosen due to your virginity. Acknowledge.”
Everyone looked at the two teens in confusion, but no one dared to say anything.
Felix looked at the screen in disbelief and stammered. “Acknowledged.”
Michelle started to cry. “What’s happening?” she whispered.
“Michelle. Acknowledge.” Barnabas said.
Sofia, the nurse, who was sitting next to Michelle placed a hand on her leg. “It’s ok, Michelle. We’ll make it through this.”
Michelle took a deep breath and quieted her sobs, though tears still ran down her cheeks. She looked up at the screen. “Acknowledged,” she whispered.
Francisco sighed and looked up at the screen. What had he been chosen for?
“You were chosen to lead this team. You alone are allowed to speak with me. If there is any attempts for others to speak with me after this moment, I will cease responding, leaving you to starve.”
All eyes turned to him, and Francisco shifted under their gaze. He hoped they knew that he had as little to do with this as they.
Francisco nodded and spoke, his voice cracking. “Acknowledged.”
“You all understand your roles. If you have other skills that you possess, you are, of course, permitted to use them for the completion of the tasks.” Barnabas stopped for a moment, and let everyone take in what had been conveyed so far. After a moment, he continued. “This is Jack.”
The bulky man in the black tanktop stepped forward and all eyes turned to him.
“He works for me. You are to obey his every command. He will report to me as often as needed alongside Francisco about the state of things. If anything is to happen to him, my communications with you will cease, and you will starve.”
Jack stepped back and crossed his arms.
“Directly after this briefing Jack will show you around the facility. Though your doors were locked today, they will not be in the future unless you choose to do so, though Jack will retain the ability to access. You will have free reign of the facility, but any attempts at escape will be punished severely, and you will find them them quite futile regardless. Are there any questions up to this point?”
Matthew opened his mouth to speak, but Andrei clapped a hand over his mouth. “Do no speak,” he hissed to him. “Only Francisco can talk to him. You will get us killed.”
Barnabas said nothing.
Everyone looked at Francisco, who in turn looked at each of them in turn. Most shook their head, and when it was his turn, Matthew looked up at the screen with fear in his eyes and shook his eyes. “It can wait,” he said under his breath to Francisco.
“No questions, Barnabas,” Francisco said.
“You are in a now-abandoned privately funded research institute known as Kapra Kapo. You are on the third floor, which will serve as your living quarters. There is power, running water, an on-site gym, a several other facilities that you are free to make use of at your leisure. There is cameras in every room, on every floor; even in bathrooms. You should expect zero privacy during your stay. I will be watching at all times. As stated before, any and all questions must be given to Francisco who is expected to give me a report every night before midnight. Francisco.”
Francisco nodded at the screen to indicate he was listening.
“Jack will show you a special room on the ground floor where you will give these reports, and receive supplies. Your role as team leader means you are in charge of supply distribution. You are free to make requests for any supplies or equipment that you deem necessary to carry out your assigned tasks beyond what has already been provided. Every request must have justification. Any usage of given equipment for escape purposes will result in a cease of communication. Do you have any questions?”
Francisco looked around at his fellow captives for a moment before returning his attention to Barnabas. “You say that this is a research facility. What did they research here?”
Francisco felt the blood drain from his face and his heart raced. All around him there were soft exclamations of shock and fear.
“And here is where we begin with the specifics of your tasks. At the center of atrium on the ground floor of Kapra Kapo is a stairwell that leads to the twenty underground levels of the facility. These levels are extremely dangerous, and it is not advised to descend without significant preparation and planning.”
“Dangerous?” Riley squeaked. Andrei shot her a glare, and she looked at her lap.
Francisco felt the question was worth repeating. “Dangerous? In what way?”
“There is documentation from the previous group of the first three floors. You would be wise to study them to understand. Beyond that, the dangers are unknown.”
Everyone looked around and Francisco felt his stomach churn. He wasn’t receiving very helpful answers. He was drawn from his thoughts when Barnabas spoke again.
“It should be assumed that the dangers are both animate and inanimate. In other words, there will be some beings that will consciously try to cause you harm, as well as the environment itself may be hazardous both to traverse and to stay in for any length of time.”
Beings? Questions burned in his mind, but Francisco held his tongue.
“The experimentations and beings currently have shown no desire to traverse levels, but in the event that they do come to the top floor, there is an orange lever near the facility entrance which will open the metal paneling on the roof and flood the facility with light. Many of the beings are light sensitive and will die, but it is unknown if this is the case for all of them, and it is possible they may ascend during the night. There is another lever, red, that must be unlocked with a key next to the first, if pulled the facility will be destroyed by bombs that reside at all levels. You will not survive”
Once again, quiet exclamations filled the room, but Francisco kept his attention on the screen. “Why would we pull this lever?”
“Should these beings escape into the world proper, it may be disastrous and cause catastrophic loss of human life. The decision of whether or not to pull the lever rests with you all. Perhaps you do not care if humanity has to deal with the horrors that lie below. I have no interest in this decision. The key to pull this lever will be entrusted with Francisco. Any questions?”
Francisco shook his head. “None. What are the tasks?”
“There are four main tasks you will need to complete to be granted your freedom. The first is the retrieval of a thumb drive marked N93-71. Once found, you will give this drive to me via the supply room. You are not to access the contents of this drive. If you do, communication will cease. Acknowledge.”
“Thumb drive N93-71. Acknowledged.”
“Secondly, you are to locate a manila envelope with the results of experiment 809-f. In the event that the envelope cannot be found, or is otherwise rendered illegible, you will reconduct the experiment. This would entail reactivation of certain underground facilities which you would also need to accomplish. For your sake, I hope the intact envelope can be found. Acknowledge.”
Francisco nodded. “Manila envelope. Experiment 809-f. Acknowledged.”
“Lastly, you will locate a necronomicon somewhere in the lower levels of Kapra Kapo and destroy it. It cannot be destroyed via normal means, and the methods of bringing about its destruction are unknown. Acknowledge.”
“Find a necronomicon, find out how to destroy, and destroy it. Acknowledged. But Barnabas, you said ‘lastly’, but didn’t you say there was four tasks?”
“The final task will be revealed to you after the other three are completed.”
Francisco sighed and looked around. The faces of his fellow captives were tense and anxious, except for Andrei who kept a stoic demeanor. “Ok. Anything else.”
“Yes, all camera systems beneath the first underground floor are offline. An optional task is for you to bring these back online, which will allow both of us visual access to these floors. These will be useful for you for planning purposes, and it is important enough to me that I will be much more lenient with supply requests and luxuries as more video feeds come online. Acknowledge.”
“Do you have any questions?”
Francisco thought for a moment. “You keep mentioning another team…”
“Their fates are recorded in their documentation, and Jack can fill in any other details. Any other questions?”
Francisco set his jaw. “I’m guessing we won’t receive an answer if we ask why we’re doing all of this.”
Francisco turned back to his colleagues. “Do you guys have any questions?”
Barnabas spoke from behind him. “No Francisco. Do you have any questions?”
He gave an apologetic smile to his colleagues and turned back toward the man on the screen. “No.”
“You will have a briefing with the team to take their questions after Jack shows you the facility. Any questions that Jack cannot answer or are not self-evident by the end of the tour can be discussed with me in the supply room tonight along with your report. Acknowledge.”
Francisco gave a heavy sigh and nodded. “Acknowledged.”
The TV switched off, and Francisco turned to see Jack put the remote back in his pocket. He turned and walked to the door at the far end of the room and opened it. “Come,” he said. “Let’s start the tour.”