After emerging from the sewers into an old mechanics workshop Blister walks as casually as he can into the city’s centre; where the main flow tube is located. By this time the metropolis is chaotic with movement; Assimilated are scurrying around like the ants Blister sees them as.
If this were another time without consequence he’d imagine the pre-programmed destination of each of them, and then promptly scoff, but right now he’s too busy trying to keep his thoughts in check and his mind on task.
I better take this pill before I get into the line; if someone sees me eat it I’m busted.
Swiftly he chucks the pill into his mouth as he nears the tubes.
There’s a line, good. Blister can only assume this is a normal routine for the Assimilated.
This gives me a chance to learn how they board the tube car, and time for the pill to kick in.
He watches intently ahead making sure to keep a blank face and blink every once in a while.
They walk to the scanner, stand paused for scanning, then get in the car and sit down, filling the rear seats first from left to right. I wonder if they’ll let me put my feet on the seats. Blister chuckles internally, nearly cracking a smile.
The que steps forward, Blister’s had Abishua’s pill underneath his tongue for the past ten minutes, it has almost fully dissolved.
Don’t throw up… Don’t throw up.
The taste has grown beyond foul from the cocktail of unknown chemicals mixing with Blister’s saliva. He swallows slowly so he doesn’t raise suspicion.
The line steps forward again.
I can feel something happening.
Or rather, he could feel the lack of something, his mind begins to drift, his eyes blur, and then re-focus, and his tongue goes numb.
Glad that taste is gone, wait, what am I doing again? He asks himself.
A long pause stands between his question and answer.
Right, catch the flow tube, meet the clusters.
He repeats this so he won’t forget.
Flow tube, clusters… Flow tube, clusters… Flow tube, clusters… Flow tube, clusters…Flow tube, cluster… His thoughts dissipate.
Blister’s turn through the scanners goes as swift as the thoughts that left his head. He is unfazed, he has no dread, and no anxious ramblings can even be conceived in his current state. He looks straight ahead at the guarding Assimilated monitoring the scanners. If he were capable of thought, he’d think how redundant their positions were; no one would be crazy or stupid enough to attempt to ride the flow tubes with even one thought going through their head. Luckily Blister had moved beyond crazy, and even though he thinks of himself as the dumbest of his peers, he was far from stupid. This, in his mind, is a well calculated, precisely executed manoeuvre, and one only Blister’s unique combination of intellect and bravado could pull off.
Blister passes the threshold of the scanner and stands for the same amount of time as all before him. Nothing registers. He’d rejoice if he knew. He simply follows the woman ahead of him into the tube car, she sits down and he sits next to her. They stare straight ahead with posture like they were posing for a medical journal, or chiropractors hand book. Their hands rest atop their knees and their mouths are closed, breathing only through their noses.
The rest of the Assimilated board, one of the guards follow and the door closes behind him. The air inside hisses as it pressurises to an uncomfortable level, no one flinches, and then suddenly the vessel takes off. It travels horizontally for a few hundred metres, before diving into the earth and raising its speed to what would be an exciting velocity, had the Hûms been conscious of what was happening to them.
Its pitch black in the tube, none of the passengers need light to see down there, they no longer possess the ability to enjoy scenery, read books, play games, talk or cure boredom however they see fit. Nothing is all they need, and they don’t even get that, they get the dull hum of the tube vibrating its way through the planet, taking them to their pre-determined task; specifically formulated to progress the planet in whatever direction the Encephalon desires.
Three hours pass by, but for Blister it’s a lot harder to gauge.
I’ve gotta be half way to china by now. He thought to himself.
Wait, I’m thinking again, this is not good, keep your cool Blister… He soliloquizes.
Blister dare not look anywhere but straight ahead or the entire contents of the tube would pounce on him.
The tube emerges from the earth to finish its run above ground. The sun is still bright; Blister’s eyes squirm as he fights his urge to blink repeatedly. He instead opts for a single blink hoping no one notices that it may have been out of sync with everyone else’s.
The tube makes its first stop of ten.
I need to get off at the third stop. Fuck.
Ten, of the fifty-eight passengers stand up and leave the tube as efficiently as they had entered. The tube takes off and Blister feels as though he’s about to pass out, he can feel drops of sweat glide easily from his armpit to his waist; they move slowly and tickle as they fall.
I must be having some kind of withdrawal from the drug Abishua gave me. Fuck; I’m only half way to the second stop. This isn’t good.
One of the guards jolts to attention, staring directly at Blister, the guard’s eyes widen as he points to Blister, then all of the Assimilated follow suit and turn to him in unison. Blister has to move quickly. Despite the horrible feeling in his head and the fermented chemicals within his stomach, he darts toward the guard at the front of the tube. The Assimilated guard is a fraction of a second from pushing the emergency stop button when Blister grabs hold of his rifle and rams it into his face. The guard loses his grip. Blister zips behind him and aims the weapon at the Assimilated passengers while squeezing the guard’s neck in a choke hold.
At the top of his lungs:
“Get the fuck back” Blister orders.
The tube’s patrons pause momentarily, they’re waiting for a command from the Encephalon. One second passes and it seems they are willing to injure themselves to capture Blister.
The assimilated take a step forward.
Blister looks to the oncoming station.
Fuck too far.
The station is one hundred metres away and Blister doesn’t have the time. He drops the gun and slams his fist hard against the emergency stop button. All the passengers launch forward and drop like rag dolls. No doubt it’s a programmed response to minimise injury. Blister and the guard smack into the front window of the tube car and the guard wriggles from Blister grasp. He turns to fight Blister, but Blister is ready, he thrusts his burly right leg, foot first, into the guard’s chest, picks up the gun and dives out of the emergency escape hatch.
There are assimilated all over the sanitary streets, all walking with absolute purpose. This is the height of their day, they are busy dismantling some sky scrapers right now, but Blister barely absorbs this as he bolts from the tube while executing a frenzied scan of his surroundings for his position in regards to his destination.
The tube station is full of Assimilated waiting to board, and by now they’ve been informed of the discrepancy in the tube’s route, they’re looking in Blister’s direction and he in theirs.
Not good, fuck, I have to go that way. He thinks, sprinting with all his energy towards the Assimilated.
They converge on him with long strides, not exerting any more energy than they have to; they know that their consistent speed will catch up to Blister when he tires.
Blister sees a pathway he must take, but there’s assimilated building up in front of the alley.
Glad I grabbed this gun.
He aims it, as he runs, at an electricity box by the side of the alleyway. The Assimilated are unfazed by his shots and the box hisses and fizzes with damage. He shoots it some more and it overloads, sending sparks into the immediate area. A large group of the assimilated fall to the ground, making a passage for Blister.
Must’ve disrupted their guises, ha, take that. Blister thinks, proudly.
He runs past them, gaining in speed with the added confidence of knocking out some of his enemies. The alley way Blister has run into is long and has many off-shooting streets perpendicular to it. Once, a long time ago this strip of backstreets would have been rife with the colourful pieces of various legitimate and illegitimate street artists, not now though, now it’s scrubbed clean.
In the distance Blister can see the feint shadows of the Assimilated travelling towards him, and with each passing crossroad his peripherals catch glimpses of more Assimilated, flanking him.
No, no, no, you’re not fucking catching me, not today. Blister protests internally, with a confident, teeth gritting grin.
“Fuck, fuck, come on Blister, find a way out” He soliloquizes, passing another crossroad.
A sign! What does it say?
A few more steps reveal it to be a no through road, but it’s the only way, all others have encroaching Assims.
Please, please, please let there be a door. He pleads to his own thoughts.
Blister turns right, down the no-through road and scours the area for an escape route, like a rat in a box on fire. He makes it ten metres into the alley when he witnesses a door open on the left side of the street.
Fuck they’ve got me. He laments, thinking the door would reveal a plague of Assimilated ready to pounce on him.
But no, a teenage woman steps out with her arm reaching for Blister, as though she knew he was coming.