Arc III: A Sticky Situation

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ARC III PART II: A Sticky Situation

Darcy's eyes shot open, her heart racing and her forehead pounding. Her back ached from where the tranq gun's blast had struck her, but that was the least of her worries. Her hands smacked against thick glass of the tube that encapsulated her. Someone had replaced her heavy wool coat and dress for a tight grey garment made of neoprene. Tubes and monitors were connected to her finger, chest, rib cage, and arms. A mask over her face provided her with a steady stream of oxygen, but also prevented her from screaming out.

Something above Darcy beeped, and the floor below became illuminated by a golden yellow light. Two straps under her arms pulled her up so that she was floating, and Darcy's panic only increased as a syrupy clear liquid began to trickle out of an opening in it. She started to twist and turn and kick the glass with all her might.

"Don't do that," a deep voice on the other side of the glass said. Darcy's head jerked up to find Hiroshi Aihara standing outside, just as unperturbed as he had been in the tea house. He looked at her with barely concealed contempt as he cleaned off a smudge on the glass with his handkerchief.

"The more you struggle, the more unpleasant the freezing process will be," Hiroshi said. He folded his handkerchief and placed it back into his pocket. Darcy tried to say something, but the words were muffled by the mask.

Hiroshi raised an eyebrow. "Wondering why I didn't kill you?" he asked. With a shrug, he explained, "The Butterfly Corps has very strict rules on murder. But the ethics of cryo-freezing are much more grey. Now please stop struggling. It would be a shame- for you, not me- if one of those tubes came undone."

Darcy stopped, not because he asked, but because she was getting tired and the liquid was already up to her knees. Hiroshi glanced at his watch and sighed. "Normally I would stay and watch, but I'm afraid that I have business to attend to. Shō ga nai. Good day. Do try to enjoy your nap- it will be some time before you wake up." He bowed mockingly, his eyes flickering with cruel amusement. Darcy tried to shout and banged her hand against the glass, but to no avail. Hiroshi Aihara disappeared in a flash of light.

Okay, think Darcy, think, she told herself, barely keeping herself from hyperventilating. Banging on the glass isn't working. You need to tip it over.

Her hands reached for the straps around her shoulders that suspended her in the air, desperately searching for a clasp. The liquid was to her thighs now, and the tank only seemed to be filling up faster. It was freezing, and she already found herself growing sluggish. Her fingers found a latch, and Darcy pulled on it with all her might. The first strap gave way, then the second. Darcy's bare feet hit the ground of the cryo-tube. As soon as her footing was secure, Darcy threw herself against the glass. Nothing. Again and again, she did this. The goo was past her waist when the tube finally shifted. With a cry of excitement, Darcy pushed again, this time jumping into it. Her arm and side were sore from hitting the glass over again over again, but she didn't care. The tube continued to shift; all the while the liquid made its way to her shoulders. It made it harder and harder to move. The air from her suit started to make her feel lightheaded, and Darcy suspected that more than just oxygen was filtering through it. The liquid covered her head, and fear started to take over as Darcy realized that she could no longer see where she was. The strength started to drain from her limbs. It was cold. So so cold.

With one final, defiant leap, Darcy smashed against the side of the tube. As her consciousness started to slip, Darcy has the strange sensation that she was falling. The tube teetered to the side, then toppled onto its side, shattering as it hit the ground. The clear liquid spilled across tatami mat floors, and Darcy toppled out, covered in the liquid and shards of glass. She ripped the mask and wires from her, gasping for fresh air and shivering as the heat started to return to her hands and legs. Tears started to form in Darcy's eyes, but she forced them back and instead pulled all the glass from her hair and sticky jumpsuit. Where was she? Was Hiroshi really Shoma and Aoto's father, and if so, why would he want to ice her? Her lockpick, her phone, and even her time machine were all gone. Were they still at the tea house, or had Hiroshi brought them here?

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