Zepheera leaned wearily against the clear acrylic that made up the opening of her kennel. She, the other borrowers, and the rats had all been kept in this large structure made up of dozens of small cubby-like containers, each about the size of a shoebox.
Though, Zepheera supposed now it was just her and the rats.
Each had a secure lock system, and the front hatches thankfully had a few air holes drilled into them. The rest of the walls were opaque, isolating each specimen thoroughly. She couldn’t see the rats she heard scratching futilely at their own walls. Even clean of drugs, Zepheera had given up on escape long ago.
The room was empty, so Zepheera had nothing to look at other than her own hand as it traced the tiny air hole nearby. It was too small for her to reach through, though she’d tried. She’d nearly broken her hand in the process, she recalled distantly. Even the memory of pain couldn’t evoke any emotion in her.
With a loud smash of the door, several human scientists burst into the room. Zepheera blinked slowly as she lifted her head to look at them. They were frantic, screaming and yelling things that couldn’t quite make it into her prison at such a distance.
They were followed by what Zepheera could only describe as metal men. Five entered, one for each scientist, stomping in time. Their soulless black eyes completely disregarded the unit that held Zepheera and the rats.
The metal men spoke in deep, cold voices, but she couldn’t process what they were saying. In short order, they cornered the scientists and touched them with outstretched silver hands. The humans’ bodies succumbed to the electricity shooting through them, and they fell dead the instant they were let go.
Zepheera didn’t even have the capacity to react.
The silver intruders spoke among themselves, but Zepheera couldn’t hear what they were saying. She numbly crawled closer to the air holes, some deep part of her aware that it was important to know what exactly was going on.
“Oi, metalheads!” roared a new voice from the direction of the door. Zepheera calmly turned her head to look, finding a strange-looking man filling the doorway. He wore a brown pinstriped suit with red converse, a style of shoe Zepheera had thought to be long out of style. He was thin as a matchstick and had hair so unruly it could almost be dubbed rebellious. His eyes were wild with adrenaline, aimed solidly at the intruders. “Have you had your shots? Seems to me like you’re due for a booster!”
He hurled a small cylindrical device at the metal men, and it stuck fast right dab in the middle of one’s chest. They all screamed as a massive field of energy surrounded them, and just like the humans before them, they collapsed one by one.
Without missing a beat, the man crossed the room quickly, examining the bodies of the scientists. He sighed when they all turned up dead. Then he stepped over to one of the metal creatures, prying his device off of its chest. He raised a small tool – a probe, it looked like – and activated the charge once again.
His eyes scanned the room as he pocketed the device, passing right over Zepheera before returning in a double take.
“What?” he frowned and walked carefully over.
The most Zepheera was able to react was a slight raise of her eyebrows. By all accounts, she should be scared out of her wits. She’d just watched this man presumably kill a bunch of silver nightmares who had murdered humans moments before. She couldn’t even begin to think what this man could have in store for someone like her, even if she were in a right state of mind.
To her nonexistent surprise, he simply leaned down and peered in at the borrower, concern etched in his features.
“Oh, you poor soul, what have they done to you?”
Zepheera blinked slowly at him.
He clenched his jaw in determination and attempted to open the hatch by hand. She knew he couldn’t do it that way, there were higher levels of security for the test subjects to eliminate chance of escape. Even so, his proximity to her awoke the instincts that had been drilled into her since childhood, and she backed away from him at a sluggish pace.
Abandoning that strategy, the stranger whipped out his probe, buzzing it at the lock. It released and the door swung open. She froze when he reached a hand in, laying it palm-up next to Zepheera.
“Come with me,” he urged, pleading with those big brown eyes.
She stared at his hand for a second, but made no move toward or away from it. The man blinked in confusion at her non-reaction and tried again. “Don’t be afraid, I’m not gonna hurt–”
Before he could finish, more ominous stomping could be heard in the hallway outside. The man glanced between the borrower and the door, conflicted for a moment. Finally, he turned an apologetic look to Zepheera.
“I’m so sorry, there’s no time.” That said, the hand shifted to scoop up the four and a half inch tall woman into its cupped palm.