The music boomed incessantly, drowning out all other sound, dominating it utterly. Nobody cared. They were too busy twisting their bodies in time with the beats thundering out of the giant speakers set strategically about the dance floor.
Spots of light whipped about the floor in a rainbow of colors. Their patterns were free and wild, reflecting the hedonistic spirit of the patrons in the club.
Sam Witwicky chugged on the slender neck bottle in his hand, swallowing the bitter alcoholic brew in one shot. He glanced about the club, quickly locating two young women as they made their way up toward the lounge area.
The first woman was Wanda, Kirk’s new girlfriend. She seemed nice enough but a wilder type then he was used to. Still, she seemed to make him happy and if he felt he could handle her, so be it.
Behind her was the real object of his fixation...
They’d met both of them at the same time three weeks earlier at another club. Wanda was unabashedly wild and crazy, holding nothing back the way she lead her life. She did as she wished, spoke her mind and damn anyone who dared to try and hold her back.
Alice seemed more reserved by comparison. But he knew that was just an appearance, a conceit she used to her advantage. There was an underlying fire she possessed that had enthralled him, charged him, set fire to his soul. He could do anything when she was around. He felt invincible, truly alive.
Wanda reached Kirk and draped her arms about his neck then planted a kiss firmly on his lips. His face lit up from the contact. He was in heaven and couldn’t contain himself. He looked exactly how Sam felt.
Alice reached him as he watched his best friend. He gazed down into her indigo eyes as she wrapped her arms around his waist.
She was stunning in her own way. Gold locks that cascaded down to her shoulders with a singular walnut colored stripe that ran down her right for contrast. Her face was angelic, evoking the quality of the girl next door. Her eyes, though, twinkled with a devilry that belied that.
He felt her lips touch his own. A swell of pleasure surged through him at the contact and he knew that moment was the best one of his young life.
“Does that make it all better?” she asked in her distinctive soft tone.
She had shades of an accent that he hadn’t quite been able to put his finger on. It sounded sort of like Australian or perhaps European. Either way, it just added to her allure.
“What do you mean?”
She smiled. “You looked like you missed me.”
“Ah, baby. You know me so well!”
He kissed her again.
She smelled so good up-close. Like strawberries or some other wonderful scent. He wasn’t sure if was her perfume or perhaps something she’d put in her hair but he couldn’t get enough.
“I never want this night to end,” he exclaimed.
She pulled back slightly and stroked his cheek. “Easy there, tiger. You’ve got an early day tomorrow.”
Kirk chuckled. “Yeah, we probably shouldn’t be late on our first day.”
“First impressions are everything,” Wanda chimed in.
Alice worked for a biotech company called Cyberterreca LXL and had suggested they were looking for new bodies when the conversation had steered in that direction. She’d even gone so far as to be a character reference for Sam and Kirk.
“I guess it’s finally time to be a grown-up.” Sam met Kirk’s gaze. “Start that daily nine to five grind, settle down and buy a house with a white picket fence...”
“Make some cute little babies.” Wanda giggled with delight. “That doesn’t sound too bad to me.”
Kirk’s face reddened at the mention of children. Sam grinned and punched him on the shoulder lightly. “Don’t worry, Kirk. I don’t think she meant you had to get started tomorrow or anything.”
“I’m not worried, Sam. I’m ready for anything--any time, anywhere,” he said confidently.
Sam just smiled. He knew Kirk wanted to look strong and invincible in his woman’s presence even though he was anything but.
“Then I guess I should tell you the news...” Wanda met his gaze. “I’m late!”
Kirk’s face went ashen.
“WHA-AT?!” he stammered.
The three of them burst out laughing.
“That’s not funny!”
“I beg to differ,” Sam managed.
“Sorry, babe.” Wanda pecked his cheek. “I couldn’t help myself!”
Kirk took an instant to compose himself.
okay,” he said cooly. “I couldn’t stay mad at you.”
He bent down and pressed his lips against her in a quick kiss. Alice clung to Sam’s arm and watched the exchange silently with him.
“Thanks again,” he said to her. “You’ve saved our lives.”
“You don’t need to be so melodramatic, Sam. I’m just glad I could help.”
He smiled and tried to act cool but in truth she had been instrumental in steering them to potential prosperity.
Kirk and himself had both graduated college six months prior, earning their Business Majors with a focus in technology. They’d immediately pounded the pavement, chasing any potential lead they could find. But they’d come up dry, having to settle for small insignificant jobs to keep the bills paid. Their post secondary internships had not lead to permanent employment–the economy was still sluggish and nobody seemed to be hiring. There were a few leads further afield but that meant leaving their hometown–and with no guarantee of employment if they did, Sam didn’t want to take such a considerable risk.
If Cyberterreca worked out as he hoped, it meant real money. A new car, a better place. Independence.
And Alice at his side. He could make her proud. Give her the life she truly deserved instead of being some poor bozo grinding away at a dead-end job. She deserved at least that much. More even.
“We’ve still got time for another dance,” he said, grinning. “Or three.”
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Kirk chimed in.
He grabbed Wanda’s hand abruptly and pulled her after him. She laughed and trotted along as best she could.
Sam glanced at Alice and noted the mischievous light in her eyes. She proffered her hand and he gripped it softly.
Together they glided softly toward the end of the bar platform and the small staircase that lead back to the dance floor.
He’d gotten several feet when he crashed into an unexpected barrier. He glanced up to see a man with a crown of golden waves and a startled expression.
“Whoa! Sorry buddy,” he said, embarrassed.
The man’s walnut eyes were wide with shock but he swiftly regained his wits and smiled.
“No problem. My bad.”
He slid out of the way, allowing them to continue on unimpeded.
“He had me worried there for a moment,” Alice whispered.
“Eh... I could’ve taken him if he’d given us any trouble,” he boasted. “The bigger they are, the harder they go down.”
She made an impressed noise.
“You’re such a bad boy!” she squealed.
He grinned and pulled her closer.
“Babe, you don’t know the half of it!”
* * *
Cyberterreca’s lobby was vast and impressive in the way that only Fortune 500 companies were. The ceiling was two stories beyond any human and the early morning sunlight illuminated the frosted glass panels surrounding the perimeter. The building was rich with arcing metal beams and glass paneling. Sparse vegetation accented the space, giving it a touch of needed color.
It was sleek and stylish. Modern in its elegance. But also sterile. Like someone had picked out the best patterns they could find from modern architectural magazines and manifested them in reality. Sam thought he could smell a particular odor emanating from the walls. A slight hint of dust or industrial glue mixed in with the air.
He was standing there in his best business attire, clutching his rigid briefcase, trying to evoke a sense of calmness he simply didn’t feel.
He’d already been interviewed four days earlier and been hired but didn’t really know what to expect or what his exact job duties would be. That was to come today when he would be introduced to his department Lead and shown around.
Kirk was already here somewhere, doing his own orientation. He knew his buddy had arrived a half hour earlier–he’d sent him a text when he got here–and been whisked inside to begin his new career. Alice had dropped Sam off separately a few minutes later. His car had been having some kind of problem with the suspension so he’d left it at his Dad’s garage to be fixed and she’d graciously offered him a ride to make certain he got there on-time for his first day.
He checked his watch once again, noting that fifteen minutes had gone by. It seemed like he’d been waiting forever for his escort to arrive. It was funny how time could be like that. Good times zipped by far too fast and instances of stress seemed to last an eternity.
A dark haired man in a dark blue suit moved purposefully toward him. He had a well trimmed goatee and dull blue eyes that seemed to radiate with life. He smiled as he approached.
“Sam Witwicky?” he asked. I’m Jon Vora, I’ll be your Team Lead.”
He offered his hand and Sam took it, shaking it once firmly.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Glad to have you on board, Sam. Follow me.”
He turned and moved off at a brisk pace. Sam had to struggle to keep up with his stride.
“Sorry I was late,” Jon said as they walked. “There’s a million things to do and never enough time.”
Jon reached inside his jacked and pulled out a single plastic card. He handed it over to Sam.
“This is your security badge,” he explained. “You’ll need it to swipe in and out everyday. We’ve got a lot of sensitive research going on here and we need to make certain everyone can be accounted for.”
Sam glanced down at the item, noting his picture emblazoned on the card as well as his name and department credentials. He carefully clipped the card to his lapel as they moved.
They reached a pair of double doors at the far wall and Jon gestured for him to try the card on the accompanying reader.
“Your badge should work,” he said. “But sometimes they’re a little bit slack in activating new ones. They get backlogged and it takes longer then it should.”
Sam held his card to the black square panel and heard it beep once. The little light remained red.
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
Jon held his own badge up and the reader beeped again, this time displaying a little green light. He reached out and opened the door.
“Don’t worry. We’ll have it straightened out by the end of the day.” He gestured for Sam to move through.
The corridor beyond was cozy when compared against the breadth and height of the lobby. There were no windows, just chrome adorned walls and a strip of halogen lighting on the ceiling. It was still clean and sterile in the same way the lobby had been. It seemed almost new although Sam knew the building had been there for some years.
Three sets of doors were set into either side of the passage and he knew immediately they were elevators. At the far end another door was closed but presumably lead to the stairwell.
Strange multi-colored neon streaks adorned black paneling on the walls in odd patterns and shapes. It was some sort of expensive artwork he suspected although he had never seen the likes of it before.
“Admiring the art, huh.” Jon smiled beside him. “We felt the corridor needed a little something to spruce it up after the majesty of the lobby.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sam admitted. “It is rather cool though.”
“The management like to do things in their own way around here,” the other explained. “You’ve heard the expression “thinking outside the box”? That’s not just a saying around here, it’s a philosophy.”
He waved his hand over the panel beside one of the elevators and it lit up with an orange symbol.
The elevator chimed a moment later and the two steel doors parted, revealing an empty car. They stepped inside.
Jon tapped the button marked “SL-3" on the panel. Sam noticed the building had six sub-levels below it, which seemed like a lot to him.
“I’m taking you down to one of our R and D levels so you can get a look at our process up-close. I’ve found in the past that our employees perform best when they have an understanding of the bigger picture.”
Sam nodded. “Makes sense.”
The car chimed once again and a robotic female voice announced “sub-level three. Please watch your step as you exit.”
Jon lead him outside and into a corridor that was painted in a muted rose color. Bright halogen style lights flooded the area with light. Like with the lobby before, the ceiling was high above them. It seemed like a waste of space for an underground facility to him but perhaps it served some purpose he didn’t yet understand.
“You’re about to see some top secret research materials,” Jon explained as they moved for a set of double doors at the end of the hall. “Remember this is company property and anything you see here is not to be discussed off Cyberterreca’s premises.”
Jon swiped his card over the access panel and the doors clicked, indicating they’d been unlocked. He pulled the closest door open and lead them inside.
Sam stepped inside a large laboratory setting out of Star Trek. It was a room illuminated in a blue lighting system of some kind. There were computer consoles scattered about the room and various staff in lab coats scurrying about the area performing various tasks. On the far wall beyond he saw several large cylinders full of various organisms.
Two of them were human sized creatures but they looked wrong. One was a lizard-like specimen while another reminded him of something like a whale but more angular. Neither stirred inside their tubes and he had no idea if either was alive or not.
The others were in various stages. Some were half his size while others were little more then blotches of matter floating freely.
“These are experiments attempting to cure cancer,” Jon explained. “We don’t yet have authorization to begin human trials but these allow us to test our methods on living tissue.”
“After a fashion. But not sentient...just advanced attempts at refining our treatments.” He glanced at Sam. “Our CEO and our board are aggressive about changing the world and they’re willing to do whatever’s necessary to make it happen.”
Sam gazed about the lab, taking it all in. He’d never in his wildest dreams envisioned anything like this.
“This is incredible,” he said finally. “I don’t even know what else to say...”
“All this is just the tip of the iceberg.” Jon moved for the doors. “Come on, Sam.”
They moved back out in the corridor.
“There’s a lot more to show you,” Jon told him. “We’re on the cutting edge of research–and beyond even. We want to change the world for the better. That’s why we need people like you, Sam. Young men and women who are hard workers and go-getters that are willing to do what it takes to create a better future.”
He met Sam’s gaze. “Does that sound like something you want in on?”
Sam couldn’t believe Jon even had to ask! After all he’d seen here already–technology beyond his imagination! Not to mention the prospect of steady employment and the opportunity to finally accomplish something in his young life. Really, there was only one thing for him to say...
He offered his hand. “Count me in.”
* * *
The orientation had gone very good. Cyberterreca was a vast company with seemingly unlimited resources at its disposal. Plus, the staff he’d met so far had been friendly and extremely welcoming to a newcomer.
Sam was going to like it here. Very much. He could feel it.
The hours had ticked past swiftly and before he knew it, the shortened business day had come to an end for him. Tomorrow was his first full day of work but for now he could go home, kick back and relax.
His car was in the shop and Alice would still be working for another couple of hours so he’d opted to walk a block over and grab the bus home.
He heard a loud moan and glanced in the direction he’d thought the sound had originated from. There were several cars parked in the lot and nothing immediately looked amiss.
Still, something felt wrong...
He moved toward the cars and noticed a banged-up Camaro sitting alone beyond them all. It looked as if the car had been in an accident and the owner had abandoned it here.
Out of curiosity, he moved in closer to bright canary colored automobile. If it were still in good repair, it likely would’ve been a pretty wicked ride. As it was, he felt pity seeing such a fine car in such poor shape.
He noticed the driver door was ajar and moved toward it. He opened it tentatively and noticed a man in the passenger seat.
“Um, hello. Are you all right?”
The man clutched at his left side and Sam noticed a dark red spot beneath his sprawled fingers.
“Please...I need help,” the other gasped. “They got me good. I n-need to get to a hospital...”
Sam pulled out his Galaxy phone.
“I’ll call for help–”
“No! There’s n-no time. They might find me here and f-finish what they started...” His head dipped for an instant and Sam feared the worst but then he brought it slowly up again.
He moved inside the car, atop the driver’s seat and checked the other man’s forehead. He was sweaty and burning up with fever.
The man looked familiar somehow... had he seen him at the club the night before? Yes, that was it. The blonde haired man he’d bumped into on the way out to the dance floor. What was he doing here and now?
He decided it didn’t matter. Whatever was going on, the man was right. He was in terrible shape and needed immediate attention. He wondered if he could take the car directly to the hospital himself and get him aid.
The door shut itself suddenly and the car roared to life, tossing him against the seat as it sprung out of the parking lot at full throttle.
Unbelievably, the man beside him fizzled into nothingness. One instant he’d been there and then he was just gone. Almost like someone had cut the power to a light bulb or perhaps a television. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
He clutched at the door but it was locked and wouldn’t budge despite his efforts. Resigned, he fumbled for the seat belt.
What was going on? It was almost as if the car had a life of its own!
A black Cadillac pulled up on the passenger side and rammed into the car just then, sending it careening off in the other direction. His heart pounded in his chest as his car abruptly moved back on course and accelerated hard, pulling away from its pursuer as it did.
glanced backward, seeing three midnight Cadillacs pursuing
them. He noted
movement on one of them and then sparks flying off the front.
He dropped down just as a barrage
of bullets pierced the back windshield, sending glass shards