Even with the sudden closing of the room and the slow descent, that Des felt, he had a clearer mind. Des looked inside the locker and gaped at the content, a tactical baton, a helmet and a kevlar vest, like those that police response teams wore. He grabbed the baton and spun it in his hands. He put it back to grab the vest, to see if there were any pockets or anything else in it. But it was just a simple protectional vest. Des overcame an ominous feeling with all that happened and now this gear; what would be next? He put the vest on, stuck the baton in his belt and grabbed the helmet, just when a speaker sounded: “Dear employees. We are immeasurably grateful for your participation in this genetical experiment. Please ready yourselves for the next stage as you will be encountering failed test subjects.”
“What the fuck!”, exclaimed Des and looked over to his fellow lab rats.
In a bit of disbelief, Vivien listened to the announcement. Whatever happened here, she was pretty sure she did not consent to it - but yet again her memories recollected. The memory of what pharma corporation they worked in and how everybody had been screened during their onboarding.
Looking at her locker, a cold feeling ran down her spine. A bulletproof vest, helmet and a tonfa. Seemed like things were about to get rough. The lurking feeling of fear that sat in her just grew stronger at this sight. But again, she was in relatively good company - she'd just rather maybe stay in second row for now.
While the room was still moving, she started to suit up.
“Genetic experiments?”, Percival mumbled to himself. It does kind of explain how he survived being set on fire and coming back just fine. Opening his locker, a bulletproof vest, helmet and a club was inside. “Wish they gave me a spare change of clothes as well”, as he put on the helmet and vest. The club felt quite heavy in his hands but it was manageable for him.
Gavin - more or less himself again - looked in his locker too. He found the same ambivalent kind of equipment: Helmet, Vest and a baton. When he took it, it looked like he was trained to use this kind of material. “Damn guys. Finally some comfy stuff around here”, he swung around the baton, like in some 80s/90s Kung-Fu movie. “Come. Get some .. “, and holstered his baton into the security belt, which was attached to his trousers.
“Well, we got some fine assault squad going on here”, he said. His voice sounded a bit changed after transferring back from the cat. But no memory of that at all for now. “What is this nasty sound?”, he wondered and checked for the source. He found some speakers allocated in the rooms, floors and whatever was left from the building. He remembered that he used to have some chewing gums, somewhere inside his pockets. So he checked it out and found some. “I´ve come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass .. “, Gavin proclaimed.
Vivien tried to go another way. It seemed stupid to her but at least she wanted to have a try. “Is there anybody who can hear me - I know there must be!”, she almost shouted into the room, but still in a calm tone. There have been security cameras, there has been an announcement, somebody was bound to have noticed that.
“Miss Vivien Baldwin, how may I assist you today?”, the mechanical voice seemed to respond to her outcry. In that moment it struck Vivien. “Gladys, is that you?”, she asked, suddenly remembering the voice of the digital assistant they had at work. It was the typical assistant that could do anything in between greeting you home, playing music and putting things on your to do list - and it was hers, at least partly.
“At your Service, Miss Baldwin”, Gladys replied monotonically. Not really thinking about the phrasing, Vivien asked the two most important questions, that came to her mind: “What is this building and why are we here?!”
After a split second, Gladys replied: “This is the building you work in, Miss Baldwin. It is one of many worldwide branch offices of the Dragonfly Corporation. You are here because you have proven to be valuable employees.” - Vivien nodded, knowing that this was true. The answer was not really satisfying, but still it was a mechanically correct answer. A little pissed off, she thought about how she could get more details.
“Gladys, why is this building different from its usual appearance and who decided to change it?”, she asked again, eager to maybe get more out of it.
“The building was structurally altered for the experiment. The initiator of this experiment is [REDACTED]”, Gladys truthfully answered, whereas the “redacted” did sound almost painful for her to say; for a robot. Vivien, still unsatisfied with the meager informational content, wanted her to elaborate. Gladys complied: “The building was repurposed during the last seven days while you were asleep.”
Vivien gave it one more try - but now she went full monty: “Gladys, system call of Vivien Baldwin, go to privileged mode.”
Gladys was silent for a moment, calculating. “I am sorry, Miss Baldwin, the access matrix has been changed. I can currently play music for you, inform you about local news and you have voice command over the lights in this building.”
“Well fuck”, Vivien thought partly shocked, partly angry. She used to have far more access - for Gladys had been maintained by her department with her being one of Gladys administrators - thus her assistant.
But then for an instant time stopped. “Wait, what?”, she mumbled worriedly, “Gladys, why have we been asleep for seven days?” - “According to my database, you were administered the mutagen that should trigger your inherent abilities according to your medical screening. The result seems to be a success.”
Vivien stood there with her mouth wide open for a second. That was just about the limit. And it also was the key to all that had happened. To their abilities as well as to the slow recovery of their memories. “Great, thank you Gladys”, she replied in a state of shock. “With utmost pleasure, Miss Baldwin.”
Des observed the reactions of his fellow test subjects and listened to the exchange between Vivien and the AI. So, this explained why Percival returned to the land of the living after being burned to a crisp. He glimpsed at Percival, who was a really comical site to behold. Just wearing a coat, a vest and a helmet; while barefoot and with naked legs. Then there was Gavin who seemed to get all worked up on the equipment. Des turned to the ceiling and asked the AI: “Gladis, what's going on outside? Why is no one in the streets? And what can we expect once the elevator opens?”
“<Voice added. Desmond Bedford recognized.> Welcome Mr. Bedford! Let me pull up the latest news regarding our town: [It has now been almost a full week since the town had to be evacuated regarding the imminent danger from the nuclear plant. The residents are eager to get back to their homes but officials are yet to give green light for the situation. Until then, the town remains cleared and the locals kept off in the governmentally paid hotels.] Unfortunately, I have no information on the contents of the new floor. My records state that the floors number three and four have been merged.”
This explained also why Vivien had seen cars standing still in the middle of the road. They all had been evacuated so fast, they didn't care. But did that even make sense? Vivien was not too sure about it. It seemed that there were three possibilities:
1. There was indeed a local thread regarding the power plant.
2. The Dragonfly Corp. used fake threats to give them enough time and privacy to complete their experiment.
3. Gladys at least partially lies to them to and they are not really wiser than before.