The Pridon den is dark and smoky, just the way I like it. I am taken into a small room where the floor is literally filled a foot deep with pillows. I find a good spot and lie down, the moment I do wisps of smoke fall from the vents around the ceiling. As it drifts down towards me I try and find a good memory to relive but only one comes to me, I can’t fight it off in time.

Anita bursts through the door, gun at the ready. She likes to do the manly things without giving me the chance to, she calls it equality of the sexes but I call it emasculating. The warehouse is dark when she and I enter, I told the O.R.B. teams to stay outside for now. She takes the lead to find a way to get to the second floor. My source said that Horace would be in the design rooms of the Landen building, getting the place ready to be torched.

“Where are we Leo?” she asks, not looking back at me.

“The spectacles say we are on the east wing and need to make it to the other side of the building for the lift. Laura said he would be up on the second floor—”

I don’t get to finish when the shadow men emerge and charge us. I blast two dead in the chest and they hit the ground writhing in electric pain, they won’t be getting up any time soon. Anita leaps over a conveyor belt, tackling one of the assailants. Two more jump in after her; I can hear the poor fools begging her for mercy as three try to take me at once. One gets the butt of my gun to the chin, the second takes a boot to the groin and a knee to the face, and the last one squares off waiting for a fist fight… I shoot him with a suppression dart.

Fighting your way to the main target without notice only happens in video games. As we beat and blast more shadow men the intercom clicks on and Horace’s laugh pierces though the air, “Look at the little mice running around the maze. Two blind mice looking for the cheese prize, little do they know that they are about to turn the wrong corner and get zapped.”

The last of the shadow men falls and we continue to make our way to the lift. Anita sticks close in case there is another ambush, every machine looks like another attacker. My spectacles strain to keep us on the right track in the low light; I hate not having been authorized the upgrade for night vision. We finally reach the west wall but there is no lift, I touch the wall and hang my head in defeat.

“Buzz! Poor little mice, you are so close to the cheese.” I begin to make my way to the right when his cackle rings, “Getting warmer, much warmer. Keep sniffing me out little mice.”

My hand touches glass; I’ve found the lift door. “Good job little mice, as a reward I’ll let you up without killing you in the uppidy box.”

My hands shake a bit as we go into the well-lit lift, I try to hide this from Anita. She looks at me and quickly looks away. Not looking up at her I say, “There will be fewer obstacles up here, which means less cover. When the doors open you jump left and I’ll go right.”

Without responding she nods and jumps left as soon as the doors open. I barely make it to cover when a bullet hits the spot on the wall where my head was. Anita wastes no time in taking out more of the shadow men. While she keeps them busy I make my way back to the eastern side of the building. From where I am I can’t see the design rooms, there is a large mass with a tarp over it in the center of the room. All of the prototype tables are pushed up against the walls. I crawl towards the tarp; I can hear Anita successfully fending off the shadow men. Lifting the tarp I find the Icktar, glass bricks of purple swirls, stacked underneath.

“There he is.” A pair of shadow men pounce on me, I shoot wildly at them. My darts hit them square in the face. It doesn’t kill them, but I need to be more careful, which is damn near impossible with my hands shaking.

Anita finds me on the floor and helps me up; I can’t help but feel a bit ashamed. Dusting myself off, she says, “I think I got all of the shadow men. Horace is all that’s left, let’s go.”

“No, no, not this. Not this memory, please.” I am back in the Pridon den, forcing myself out of the hallucination. I don’t want to be here anymore, let me out. It doesn’t work.

“Look at you two, you found the cheese and don’t know what to do with yourselves.” Horace says, holding up the Icktar detonation switch. Anita and I have our guns pointed at him but are eyeing the now uncovered explosives next to us.

Horace starts to pace, never breaking eye contact with me, his long pale and slender body moving in and out of shadow. His eyes glisten with delight as he holds the detonator caringly in his left hand, the hand of a corpse. “Oh how the Master will be proud of me. You know he has taken a liking to you Leonardo. Calls you his adversary, but says you will soon become his equal.”

“Who is the Master?” I need to keep him busy enough for one of us to get a good shot.

“You will find out soon enough, oh I promise you that.” He stops, half in shadow. “Sadly your little mouse friend won’t have the great privilege.”

He throws his head back in laughter; I take a shot in the dark and hit the detonator with a slime pellet. It sticks to the window and my heart drops, both Anita and I look at the Icktar, expecting it to detonate but it sits undisturbed. This gives Horace time to activate one of the machines nearest us, Anita ducks but I’m not fast enough. The mechanical arm slams into my head and throws me into another machine, my gun goes flying. When I finally stand I only have time to see the victorious grin on Horace’s face before he fires.

Anita falls backwards to the floor. Something inside me snaps and I leap at Horace, we smash into the glass doors that lead into the design rooms. The tempered glass shatters but we don’t go through, instead we fall back and he lands on top of me. I punch, kick and bite my way out from under him. My gun is gone so I grab an Icktar brick and bash the side of his head with it. Blood spews out of him and lands on my face and in my mouth, I don’t relent. He doesn’t fight back, he only laughs. The harder I beat the harder he laughs. That sound rings through my skull like the brick through his. Suddenly the brick in my hand brightens and heats up.

“Listen little mouse, can you hear them whisper to each other?” Horace says caressing the pile of Icktar that has also activated.

I jump off of him and run to Anita. We need to get out… but when I get to her she is lying lifeless on the floor, a pool of blood spilling out of the hole in her head. Touching her still warm skin I go cold; neither of us will leave this building alive.

As the room around me brightens and heats up, her hand shoots up at me and pulls me in, with her last breath she whispers, “Run, I love…”

Her hand falls back to the floor, I’ve lost her. I want to stay and find her but her words drown out Horace’s laughter; they build up inside of me and give me the strength to run full force at the closest window.

Instead of falling down I am lifted up—up off the soft pillows of the den and into the arms of a much stronger man then myself. My eyes open and I find myself being carried through a drug raid by none other than Commander Romdar.


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