Chapter 22:

A Real Prison Break

Red-Black Course

“This is bullshit!” Zain slammed his fist onto the medical bed, almost breaking it in half. “It’s been three whole days! Not only do they haven’t told us anything about Rex, but I also haven’t even gotten any news regarding myself! And where’s that damn healthcare AI?”

“I know yer angry, bud,” answered Mitch with a sigh. “But there ain't nothin' we could do. Da wardens are da ones to contact us always, so we have no agency.”

“Then am I just gonna have to sit here and do nothing?”

“Uh… yeah, pretty much.”

“… You’re a real light of the party, you know that meathead?”

“Ya just gotta accept the truth, man. It’s not like I wanna be negative and all.”

This conversation had been on repeat for three entire days, and along with it, Zain’s sanity was slowly depleting. The double dose of anxiety coming from both his concerns for Rex and himself had caused Zain’s temper to worsen by the minute.

“… This is getting ridiculous,” after a brief moment of sitting around, Zain complained once more. “I can’t even log in to unwind myself!”

“Ya been here fer like five minutes,” Mitch, on the other hand, was lying quietly with his eyes shut as if trying to sleep away the worries. “Relax.”

Before Zain could blow up another time, the door to the infirmary opened and came in a familiar face in all black.

“You guys certainly are active,” said Rose after a glance at the situation. “Come with me, inmate Zain, for the final paperwork. After this, you’re a free man.”

“Where’s Rex?” Even the female warden was surprised at the words coming out of the young tyrant’s mouth.

“I cannot disclose that detail to you. Please understand.”

“Then I refuse.”

“You… what?”

“You heard me. I refuse. Tell me what you’ve done to him first, then I’ll decide.”

“We don’t have time for this, inmate Zain. Just come with me.”

“I told you, I…”

Zain’s complaints were cut short by a sudden shock of electricity, as Rose’s whip had already coiled itself around his body before the young man could finish his sentence. Without another word, the warden dragged him away from the infirmary to the confused look on Mitch’s face.

The pair arrived at the public elevator and soon were stationed in a small room on the floor directly above the infirmary. Only when Zain was thrown directly on a chair with his arms and legs locked down by cuffs did the mechanical whip finally let him go.

“Hey! What gives? Is this how you treat a free man?”

“Learn to read the room, idiot!” To Zain’s shock, Rose replied with an angered shout while rubbing her temples as if suffering from a chronic headache. “I swear, how did that kid manage to put up with you…”

“Aha, Zain boy is certainly a handful, Superintendent,” from the corner of the other side emerged another familiar face. But as his blond locks were caught in Zain’s sight, the latter was even more furious than before.

“What the hell are you doing here? You’re the one who did all of this in the first place!”

“Ugh, Rex boy was the same, and now you,” Jack begrudgingly answered. “I told you guys not to shoot the messenger; I had no say on the matter that day. Why do you think I even bothered to appear here today if I was the one behind it?”

“Then what are you here for?”

“I’ll keep it short then,” Rose answered. “We don’t like that final decision from the Commander. You and Rex both won that last game, so it’s only natural that you both should be free. We appealed to the Commander too, but thanks to that both of us are now demoted, switching places with Bruce and Love.”

“Basically, you got salty that you’re demoted, so now you’re helping me?” With a squint of doubt, Zain asked.

“Don’t villainize us like that,” a light frown showed itself on Rose’s face as she continued. “We’re helping you out of goodwill. We are agents of justice, and so we will see to justice being served… even if it meant going against the will of our superior.”

“And as proof of our cooperation,” Jack continued, in his hand was already a small remote. With a click of a button, the locks on Zain’s arms and legs were released in a flash. “There you go. Pleased to be working with you.”

“… This isn’t enough proof that I can trust you,” Zain replied, the doubt still hadn’t left his voice.

“I know,” nodded Rose, taking out a piece of paper. “This is the official notice for your release from the Infinite Prison. Just sign here and you’re free; afterwards, you can choose to leave this place entirely or follow us to save your friend. It’s up to you.”

With a glance over the slip of paper, Zain realized that every word that Rose had said was true. There were no traps in the notice, nor was there any kind of responsibilities or hidden conditions Zain had to fulfill. It was an honest-to-goodness notice of release, and all it was missing was his signature.

“Here’s your pen. Sign away.”

Jack gave Zain a small ballpoint pen before Rose continued:

“We’ll be waiting at the prison cafeteria at midnight. Come or not, it’s your choice.”

Night befell the prison, coating every room in a dim, red light once more. In that misty setting amidst the shadows, a figure appeared in the cafeteria. Already waiting for him was two more figures, one male and one female, all cloaked in a pure black suit.

“I knew you’d come,” Rose let out a smile as she saw Zain approaching.

“So, what’s the plan?” The former inmate asked.

“First, we take the elevator used for the games,” Jack answered, pressing the remote to the elevator. As the three got in, Zain realized a strange detail that he had missed beforehand:

“Hold on, this thing only has one button. Are we going back down…”

“That’s what you think,” answering him was a wry smile from Jack, as he popped open a secret lid attached to the lone elevator button to reveal another, much smaller button stationed right below the original.

As Jack pressed the secret button, the elevator moved at a much higher speed than its usual traversal to the usual game room. When the machine arrived at its destination, the force of the impact was so great that all of its users were almost shot up in the air.

Once the door opened once more, what greeted the trio was no longer a single room, but an entire hallway filled with different corridors and surveillance everywhere in sight. Small orb-like objects floated about, each with its own red scanner to detect any form of anomaly, like an army of patrolling mini-AIDEs.

“What is this place?” Exclaimed Zain.

“This is an underground facility only known to high-ranking wardens,” answered Rose. “Essentially, it’s our database where we keep, and make, everything you’ve seen so far in here. Our weapons, AIDE, the VR system, everything.”

“I assume those balls are like AIDE, then?”

“Yup,” nodded Jack. “But much more hostile. Get in their vision, and the entire place goes to a red alert. Best to avoid them.”

“Do you guys have a remote of some sort to mass shut down these things?”

“We used to. But now that we’re demoted, Love has the remote,” Rose replied. “So it’s the old-fashioned way to get to our destination: evade their lights or destroy them before they see us.”

“Got it.”

Normally, having to avoid an army of automatic surveillance cameras was no easy feat. However, before the strongest inmate of the prison, a former colonel and superintendent, the task was as simple as child’s play. Jack, with his incredible agility, snuck through the mini-AIDEs’ blind spots with ease. Rose disabled the robots with her electric whip whenever one approached her, while Zain just simply crushed them all with his bare hands.

In the end, as the trio was in the hallway leading to the next room, the path behind them was already filled with scrap metal. However, their challenge was still only in its initial phase.

Behind the first door was another hallway, and standing guard was none other than Bruce.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here? Colonel, I mean, Officer Jack,” Bruce let out a condescending grin. “Why are you in an unauthorized zone at this time of night?”

The warden’s threats, however, were no more than the wind blowing in an empty house.

“Is… Is bullhead serious?” Zain asked, gesturing at the fuming Bruce in front of him. “He does realize that he’s never beaten any of us in a fight, right?”

“Just… leave him be,” answered Jack with a disappointed shake of the head. “Sometimes I have to wonder how the hell he was able to capture you all those years ago. I mean, I know you were nine, but…”

“He didn’t. I was subdued by mechanical soldiers, while the guy took all the credits.”

“Well, anyway, I’ll be enough. You guys go on ahead,” Jack concluded, gesturing for the rest to continue without him.

“I would say good luck, but you probably won’t need it,” Rose replied, running past Bruce to open the door to the next room along with Zain.

As the door closed, with only the two wardens facing each other, an expression of sadness and regret appeared on Jack’s face.

“Sorry, Zain boy…”

Waiting on the other side was, naturally, Love, along with another army of mini-AIDEs at her disposal. Holding a small remote in one of her hands and a shining knife in the other, the warden let out a charming smile as she saw her former partner and enemy:

“I’m sure you don’t need any more explanations, correct?”

“No,” answered Rose. “We don’t.”

“So, you chose him in the end.”

“I chose the side of justice. No more, no less.”

“Well, then. Shall we begin?” Licking her blade in ecstasy, Love had her attention fully on Rose. The latter knew this, and so she lightly nodded, not to accept her former partner’s challenge, but to signal Zain to continue without her.

The young man caught on quick as well, and, with a quick sprint, disappeared behind the door to the final room of the hidden facility.

Steward McOy
Robin Paharya
Kya Hon
F.C Fondness
Ei Ruan
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