Title: Key to Survival
Author: Tarlan ()
Pairing/Characters: David Worth
Rating/Category: PG13 Gen
Prompt: key to survival
Word Count: ~1190
Summary: David wondered if he was just another loose end being tied up.
Notes/Warnings: Written for:
- Round 10: experiments by evil scientists
- : key
David stayed quiet as the small group started asking questions. Who were they? Where were they? Why were they here?
He had his suspicion that it was something to do with the strange project he had worked on a few months earlier for a client who had remained anonymous, but the fat pay checks had kept coming so he completed the work and handed it over. They even gave him a bonus, not that he had much use for the money in his monotonous life, but now he wondered if he was a loose end they wanted to tie up.
Cubes. His part had involved the outer shell of some massive machine that defied description other than being one gigantic cube. He had asked a few questions, perhaps too many questions even though no answers had been forthcoming. Perhaps they believed he had found those answers elsewhere. He wondered if any of the people present had made the same mistake of asking too many questions, except they seemed to come from different walks of life - he was a building designer, and the others were a math student, a doctor, a cop, an escape artist, and an autistic guy. There had to be some logic to the selection, a combination of skills that could be the key to surviving this.
Not that he cared if he lived or died. In the outside world he felt dead already, moving from one day to the next with only his work and his porn collection to keep him going, and even that wasn't enough sometimes, bringing him one day closer to simply blowing his own brains out. The pessimist inside him told him they were all dead, that none of them were expected to make it out alive. It was a pointless exercise, some sociological experiment likely set up to justify the very existence of the machine, to justify the millions, or billions plowed into its creation. Just the bureaucratic nightmare of some government official rather than anything more sinister.
Rennes, the escape artist, was the first of their small group to fall victim to the deadly traps, teaching them a valuable lesson that anything could trigger one of the unsafe cubes. It made them stop going almost blindly from one cube to the next by simply hurling in a boot on a knotted string of boot laces, and to look to see if there was some pattern to navigating the maze of rooms.
Leaven, the young math student, spotted the numbers on each hatch and yet it still took them far too long to realize the thunder and shaking was the cubes shifting around them. They hadn't been moving in circles; the rooms had been shifting around them.
The longer they stayed together the less convinced he was that they were all there to help each other. Doctor Holloway was a psychiatrist and a conspiracy theorist slowly losing her sharp mind to Alzheimer's, but even she couldn't keep the cop, Quentin, from having a psychotic break. He murdered her first, letting go of the cloth rope as she hung on the outside of the giant cube machine, letting her plunge to her death. Quentin tried to make it look like an accident but David and Leaven knew better. Once he started to unravel David began to wonder what would kill them first - a booby-trapped cube or Quentin.
David had never wanted to play the part of a hero. He had never wanted to be the man in charge, but he found himself trying to protect the more vulnerable Leaven and Kazan from Quentin, taking a beating from the cop before discovering the true key to cube maze was Kazan. The hatch codes were permutations and the only safe path through the maze was for those that were Prime numbers. Kazan's brain was wired to take a number and work out if it was Prime or Not Prime faster than any computer. Without realizing it David found a purpose for his life, wanting to find a way for Leaven and Kazan to escape this hell, but he knew they had to get away from Quentin. Somehow they managed to escape him, rushing from cube to cube knowing he could be right behind them. He and Leaven had already figured out that one of the cubes they had passed through was the bridge to the outside, but only when the rooms were in the starting position. Between them they figured out that could happen within the next few moves. They were in a race against time to find that bridge cube again or risk becoming trapped inside the cube until they starved to death or were murdered by Quentin.
They found it, right back where they had started what seemed a lifetime ago in the very first cube.
It was his fault Leaven died.
He should have made her leave while she had the chance but she refused to go without him, aware of the boundless human stupidity outside the cube but willing to live with that rather than die here. Before she could convince him to go with her Quentin found them, and this time there was no pretense on his part. He was a killer and he knew Leaven was no longer the key to his survival. She died right before David's eyes and for the first time in decades David felt the numbness and apathy dissolve into a blaze of outrage as he launched himself at Quentin. Quentin was so much stronger than him, better trained, and fueled by his insanity so the uneven match lasted but a few seconds before David felt the incredible pain of the hatch handle weapon gutting him. He was dying but David's only thought was to save Kazan from Quentin and from this terrible place, using the last of his strength to grab hold of Quentin's leg to stop him reaching Kazan and the outside world. The bridge cube moved on, severing Quentin at the waist and David fell back, dragging himself across the cube to where Leaven lay still in death.
She was the first person to whom he had felt a true connection in years, and she hadn't deserved to die in this place. He laid down beside her, wondering how long the operators of the cube would wait before they sent in the cleaning crews to reset every trap before they started another experiment. He wondered if those evil scientists had gained anything from what they had recorded, if it had proved any theories about human nature - the good and the bad. He wanted to know if all the death had been as pointless as he suspected, and he wanted to know if they had let Kazan walk away or simply sent him back in to be part of the next unfortunate group.
The cubes shifted again, the vibration dragging a guttural moan of pain from him.
It would be over soon, he thought, except the hatchway opened, back lighting two figures in white coats, and beyond them was the piercing white of the outside, blinding in its brilliance. He watched them approach, wantign to see how they reacted whne they realized he wasn't yet dead.
"Protocol Three," one stated to the other as they began to work on his injuries. Perhaps he was not destined to die there after all, he thought, as they carried him out and cleaning crews moved passed them.
The cube had been reset.