Vague memories and troubled thoughts jostled at the edge of Max's consciousness. Bright light. The sensation of movement. An unusual scent. The passage of time.
Gradually, haltingly, the fog began to clear. A groan came from from his left-hand side, and with an effort, he turned his head to investigate.
"Cam!" His friend was chained to the wall beside him, with his arms suspended above his head, apparently unconscious. It was only when Max tried to reach out to him that he realised his own hands were bound in the same way.
As his head cleared, he looked around apprehensively, wondering what sort of hell-hole dungeon they were trapped in.
The first thing he noticed was the thick shag carpet. The second thing he noticed was the hot tub. The third thing he noticed was the enormous bed, nestled into an alcove at the end of the room and the fourth thing was the rather pleasant instrumental music being played through what sounded like some extremely expensive speakers. As far as hell-hole dungeons went, most of the places he'd lived in during his uni days left this place for dead.
The being-chained-to-the-wall thing was a bit of a bummer, although it was at this point that his brain finally got around to reminding him that the having-superpowers-thing would probably take care of the being-chained-to-the-wall-thing.
And so it proved. With a pleasingly minimal effort, he ripped his bindings from the wall and cracked open the cuffs on his wrist. He turned his attention to freeing Cam, but was interrupted by the opening of the room's only door.
"Hey-hey, human! Look who's up. I won't ask you how it's hangin', 'cause we both know the answer to that, am I right?"
Max gaped at the newcomer. He was quite tall, but it wasn't that which made Max stare. He had long, flowing hair that fell to his shoulders in immaculate waves, but that wasn't what caught Max's attention. He was wearing a purple suit with green suede boots, but even this felonious fashion barely registered with Max.
It was the three eyes that made him stare. Although to be strictly accurate, it was only one of the eyes that did it. The one in the middle of his forehead. The two located in their usual positions hardly rated a glance.
The stranger bounded into the room and looked Max up and down. Or at least two of his eyes did. The third seemed to be looking at Cam. He gave Max a hearty slap on the back.
"You woke up - awesome! I was a bit worried you might be a bit dead, what with all the gas we hit you with. Sorry about that, by the way. I kinda figured a Rigellian shuttle would be full of, you know - Rigellians. But when a couple of Earthlings walked out, I could not believe it. Particularly 'cause we'd just released the gas. Embarrassing, right? Here I am on a mission to save humans, and we gas the first ones to come along. Boy, was my face red. Still, here you are, not even remotely dead." He looked doubtfully at Cam. "Although, the jury may still be out on that one."
Glancing down, he noticed the broken chains and cuffs lying on the carpet besides Max. "Whoa, I thought you guys were the humans from the video - and you really are super-strong. Stupendous!" He punched Max in the arm. "Way to totally break free, my man. No offense meant with the chains, it's just that sometimes the people we gas wake up a little bit pissed. When I had 'em installed, I had no idea that they'd be handy for that as well."
A million questions were jostling in Max's brain for the opportunity to get out. Who was this strange person? Why had he gassed them? Where were they? What video? Where was Flenson? Would Cam be alright? Why had they been locked up? In summary - what the fudge? He summed up this catalogue of inquiries with a dazed, "Huh?"
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The Four Baristas of the ApocalypseScience Fiction
In the Earth's darkest hour, unexpected heroes are stirring. Stirring their coffee, that is. When aliens invade, four baristas on a camping trip hardly seem the most likely saviours of the world. But thanks to a hologram with no fashion sense, some...